Gays Who Adopted Partners Need Annulments, Senator Says

Novak and MacArthur

Bob Casey, Pennsylvania's Democratic senior senator, wants to right a wrong that's affecting numerous same-sex couples — the inability to obtain annulments for couples in which one partner adopted the other before the days of marriage equality.

This was a common practice in the mid-20th century, as adoption offered legal protections for same-sex partners when it came to matters like hospital visiting privileges and inheritance laws. But now with marriage equality, some couples in this situation are finding it difficult to annul their adoptions so they can legally wed. 

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Casey writes of a couple in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County who were denied their adoption annulment request in July. The judge stated that adoption annulments can only be granted in cases of fraud and reversing them in other instances would place all adoptions in jeopardy. Because of the ruling, the couple cannot marry, since they would be guilty of incest and could face 10 years in prison. The situation is not exclusive to the Allegheny County couple.

Casey wants Lynch to issue guidance to courts across the country on the matter so that same-sex couples in this situation can easily annul their adoption and enter into a legal marriage.

"Prior decisions such as the one made in Bucks County, Pennsylvania may provide the legal foundation for such guidance," Casey writes. "LGBT couples should have the right to obtain a marriage license, no matter the state or jurisdiction in which they reside. As you know, Justice Anthony Kennedy described the request of same sex couples in Obergefell as "equal dignity in the eyes of the law." In adoption cases such as these, the law has changed dramatically since the adoptions were first carried out. To ensure the dignity of all LGBT couples is affirmed no matter their current adoption status, we must ensure that all parties know their options under the law. I appreciate your attention in this matter and look forward to your response."

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