Same-sex couples seeking recognition for past unions

If you’re an individual in a same-sex relationship, the United States ruling allowing same-sex marriage was probably good news to you. At that point, you may have wondered if you could secure recognition of your marriage retroactively. Why would you need to do this? There are many benefits to being married legally in the United States instead of being in a common law marriage or civil union.

One woman reported that she has sued United of Omaha for failing to pay her spousal benefits after her spouse died in 2013. She is also suing her insurance company, since it wouldn’t pay her a survivor’s benefit, and another insurance company for denying her survivor’s benefits for disability income. Now, she’s also applying to have an inheritance tax, the tax you pay when you receive an inheritance out of wedlock, refunded, since her marriage should have been binding when it took place in 2001.

Another legal issue came up in Alabama, when two men who had married in Massachusetts in 2011 moved there. One of the men died in a car crash a few months after the wedding, but Alabama, at the time, did not recognize the union.

What that meant was that the man’s mother-in-law received the sole beneficiary of his wrongful death lawsuit. While the mother-in-law did not approve of the marriage and was still arguing that the benefits should not be transferred to the man since the marriage wasn’t recognized at the time of the case, the Chief United State District Judge disagreed and ordered over half a million dollars be returned to the man’s spouse.

Source: Think Progress, “Same-Sex Couples Are Securing Retroactive Recognition Of Their Marriages,” Zack Ford, July 30, 2015


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