Same-Sex Marriage Laws

What Does the Supreme Court Ruling Mean

same sex marriage lawsOn June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states couldn’t ban same-sex marriage. This ruling essentially requires all states to issue marriage licenses to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Same-sex marriage has been referred to by supporters as either marriage equality or equal marriage. Opponents sometimes characterize same-sex marriage as re-defining marriage but at least the situation hasn’t devolved into anybody needing a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles yet. Same-sex marriages can take place in both religious and civil ceremonies.


A Brief History

There have been many changes across the nation in recent years. Perhaps none have caused such bitter divides as the decision of whether or not to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Sweeping discussion on this topic actually began back in 1993 when the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that laws denying a same-sex couple the right to marry were a violation of the constitution.

It was then that several more states began to steam toward their own legal outlooks, wanting to clearly define “marriage.” In most instances, marriage was defined as a relationship between a man and a woman. By the year 2000, 40 states had statutory or constitutional provisions, which limited marriages to couples of the opposite sex only.


The Ripple of Change

Beginning in 2000, some states began to recognize same-sex couples’ relationships. Vermont granted recognition to civil union between same-sex couples in April of 2000, which granted same-sex couples nearly all the benefits and responsibilities that married couples in the state faced. In 2005, Connecticut became another state that put into practice a state law providing same-sex couples civil unions.


The Aftermath

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was already legal in 37 states as well as Washington D.C. Now, same-sex unions are available across the nation. Public approval of same-sex marriage has shifted significantly from the 90’s to recent days. While opponents of same-sex unions continue to define marriage as being between a man and a woman due to the procreation aspect, proponents say that gay marriage bans are not only discriminatory but also unconstitutional. They also often suggest that same-sex couples should be granted the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Annulment Versus Divorce

What’s the Big Difference?

divorce lawsIf you’re considering separation from your spouse, you’ve probably heard terms like “divorce” and “annulment”. While law-speak can be confusing, these are actually two terms that are quite easy to understand.

Legally, there are two ways that you can end your marriage. You guessed it – through a divorce or an annulment. When you divorce (otherwise known as a dissolution of marriage) you’re legally ending a marriage that is seen as valid. Both parties return to their single status – both on the social scene and on their tax forms. An annulment or nullification essentially cancels the marriage, making it legally appear as though the marriage never existed to begin with.

Because “divorce” carries such a stigma in our culture, many parties often seek out an annulment. While either party can initiate the proceedings, the trick is proving he or she has grounds to do so. What are common grounds under which parties might be granted an annulment?


  • Mental Illness – A spouse was mentally ill or unable to consent at the time marriage took place
  • Threat – A spouse was threatened or forced into the marriage
  • A Third Party – A spouse was married to another partner who was alive when the second marriage took place
  • Age – A spouse was under a certain age and without court approval when the marriage happened
  • Impotence – A spouse is physically and incurably impotent prior to marriage (and it wasn’t made known beforehand)


These are just some of the grounds for annulment. For a full list, you will want to consult with a family lawyer. Or a personal injury lawyer for slip and fall accidents on the job.

Whether you want to pursue a divorce or an annulment may also depend on the state in which you reside. A divorce can be much more taxing than an annulment, but, similarly carries a certain set of rules. States either recognize a no-fault divorce or a fault divorce. No-fault divorces names neither spouse as the “cause” for the marital break-up. A fault divorce is granted when a spouse can prove adequate grounds. Grounds vary from state to state but may include crime convictions, drug or alcohol abuse and similar.

Speak with your attorney about whether annulment or divorce may be the best route for you and your spouse.

You Mean I’m Married?

About Common Law or “Informal” Marriage

common law marriagePerhaps you’ve heard the term “common law marriage” but you’re unsure as to what that means. Also called an informal marriage, this type of union means that two individuals are recognized by their state as being legally married. This is the case even without the couple having formally registered to be considered as being in a civil or religious marriage.

But wait! Informal Marriage doesn’t apply to partners in every state.

We Live Together: Are We Married?

Just because you’ve lived with your partner for an extended period of time does not necessarily mean you’re involved in a common law marriage. Most states that recognize common law marriage have common requirements for couples. Those requirements include:

  • You must live together (length of time can vary by state)
  • You must both have the legal right to be married
  • You must intend to be married
  • You must hold yourself out to friends or family as being a married couple

What do you mean by “legal right” to be married?

Great question. If you both have the legal right or the legal capacity to be married, then you’re both of legal marrying age in your state (this can vary) you’re both of sound mind, and finally, neither of you is married to someone else.

How do I “hold myself out” to be married?

laws for marriageAnother great question! Many couples that are together for a long time may take the same last name, refer to one another publically as husband or wife, carry joint credit cards or establish a joint checking account. These are all ways in which you may be holding yourself out to friends and family as being a married couple, though you may not have had an official event to “tie the knot”.

Does my state recognize common law marriage?

Only a small handful of states currently recognize common law marriage. They include:

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Be sure to educate yourself on the statutes of your particular state regarding common law marriage.