Wish Upon a Wedding

There is a great organization that grants wedding wishes to couples where one party has a terminal illness, regardless of sexual orientation.  It's right in their mission statement:  Wish Upon a Wedding is dedicated to granting weddings and/or civil union ceremonies at destinations across the United States to couples who are facing terminal illness.

If you know anyone who would love their wedding wish granted, read through the information below!



Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage p2

We're very pleased to present the sixth in a series of articles about legal resources for same-sex couples.  Our goal is to make sure that your gay or lesbian family is protected, both as you plan your gay wedding and continue your lives together.  The article below was written by Claire Bartholome, who in addition to being an estate planning attorney, is also a client of 14 Stories.

Recognition of marriage confers hundreds of benefits applying not only to spouses, but to family and next of kin as well. With those rights, however, come responsibilities, and while we celebrate gains in equality no matter the consequences, same-sex couples should understand what true marriage “recognition” will mean for them.  Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the mixed consequences of marital recognition for same-sex couples. 

This week: spouses’ rights to inherit property.  Generally, if an individual dies without a Will, his or her estate will be automatically distributed to a spouse and any issue or kindred (children or other family members).  In states that recognize same-sex marriage, these rules apply equally to opposite-sex or same-sex couples.  If an individual dies with a 
Will, however, she or he cannot completely disinherit a spouse unless the couple signed a valid prenuptial agreement. As a result, a spouse is entitled to a share of the estate.  This can introduce complications that have traditionally faced only opposite-sex couples.  

  • In Massachusetts and Connecticut, a marriage revokes all previous Wills unless they were made specifically in contemplation of a marriage.  Many same-sex couples previously drafted legal documents to protect one another and are now marrying later in life.  If they wish to distribute assets according to their own wishes, not according to prescribed state statute, they must complete new Wills after marriage.
  • Keep in mind, however, that before gay marriage became legal, same-sex couples could omit a partner from a Will in order to benefit other children, individuals, or charities.  Now that they are married, a spouse is entitled to a share of the estate even if she or he were omitted from the earlier Will.  Certain government benefits, including MassHealth in Massachusetts, will consider the refusal of a spousal share as a gift to the other beneficiaries named in the Will, with dramatic consequences for eligibility (see last week’s post).
  • Same-sex couples with significant assets must also remember that federal estate tax law, and the federal definition of marriage, determines whether married couples can make tax-free transfers between spouses.  Therefore, while an individual can leave hers or his entire estate to an opposite-sex spouse, which will only be taxed upon the death of the second spouse, this benefit is not available to same-sex married couples.
Remember, unmarried same-sex couples or couples in states that do not provide marriage equality may still provide for a partner in a Will.  The presumption where there is not a valid marriage is for the individual’s parents or siblings to benefit when an individual dies without a Will.  A non-married or non-recognized same-sex partner will be completely ignored as a matter of law. 

Being treated as a married couple for the purposes of inheritance requires thoughtful planning, and the benefits of recognition are tempered by continued discrimination on the part of the federal government.  These challenges, however, will continue to be a part of the fight for equality … for better or for worse.

Claire Bartholome is an Attorney with the Law Office of William J. Brisk.  Her practice specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples in order to combat discrimination, legal challenges, and prejudice.  This information is not intended to provide legal advice.  For information as to how the laws apply to your specific situation, consult an attorney.  www.briskelderlaw.com

Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage

We're very pleased to present the fifth in a series of articles about legal resources for same-sex couples.  Our goal is to make sure that your gay or lesbian family is protected, both as you plan your gay wedding and continue your lives together.  The article below was written by Claire Bartholome, who in addition to being an estate planning attorney, is also a client of 14 Stories.

A marriage gives you automatic inclusion within and under hundreds of state laws that apply to spouses, family, and next of kin. With the rights of marriage, however, come responsibilities, and while we celebrate gains in equality no matter the consequences, same-sex couples should understand what true marriage “recognition” will mean for them.  Over the next few weeks I will be discussing situations where marital recognition may have mixed consequences for same-sex couples. 

This week: eligibility for long-term care coverage under Medicaid.  In Massachusetts, same-sex spouses now have full marital recognition for MassHealth, the state Medicaid program, which can have positive or negative effects depending on the relative wealth of the spouses.   

  • MassHealth views the couple’s combined assets in order to determine eligibility, so if the healthier spouse has significant personal wealth, he or she will need to spend down countable assets until they total less than approximately $112,000 (not including a home worth less than $750,000) in order for the less healthy spouse to qualify for coverage.
  • On the other hand, if the couple’s combined countable assets are $112,000 or less, the spouse in need of long-term care will qualify for MassHealth.  If the couple were not considered married for the purposes of MassHealth, the spouse in need of care would have to spend down to $2,000 before he or she would qualify and would not be able to transfer any assets to a non-married partner.
  • Generally, if an individual were to transfer assets to someone other than a spouse within 5 years of applying for MassHealth coverage, he or she would be subject to a disqualification period of 1 day for every $267 transferred.  Since same-sex marriages are recognized, spouses are allowed to transfer assets between themselves freely without incurring a disqualification period. 
  • Coupled with Federal gift tax law, however, transferring assets between same-sex spouses may still incur tax liability.  An individual can transfer $13,000 per year to any person, but when significant asset transfers are on the line, taxes may be imposed.  Each person can transfer up to $1,000,000 in a lifetime, but each gift made during life is deducted from that total.  While the Federal government provides that “married” persons can transfer assets freely between one another without gift tax liability, this applies only to opposite-sex spouses as a matter of Federal law.

Being treated as a married couple for the purposes of MassHealth requires much more planning than if spouses are considered separately, and the benefits of recognition are tempered by continued discrimination on the part of the Federal Government.  These challenges, however, will continue to be a part of the fight for equality … for better or for worse.

    Claire Bartholome is an Attorney with the Law Office of William J. Brisk.  Her practice specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples in order to combat discrimination, legal challenges, and prejudice.  This information is not intended to provide legal advice.  For information as to how the laws apply to your specific situation, consult an attorney.  www.briskelderlaw.com

    The Most Popular Reading at a Gay Wedding Ceremony

    The most popular reading during gay wedding ceremonies has tremendous meaning. It's historical. It's beautifully written.  It speaks volumes about the significance of a marriage.  And it was written by a lawyer...

    Well, a judge actually.  The most popular reading during gay wedding ceremonies is part of the ruling which legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts (the first state to have legal gay marriage).  It was written by Judge Margaret Marshall from the State Supreme Judicial Court.  While this is by no means the whole ruling, the passage below is the long version and  is often excerpted into smaller chunks:

    "Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For  those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations....Without question, civil marriage enhances the "welfare of the community." It is a "social institution of the highest importance." ...

    Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.... Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and  connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition."

    I hope you consider including a piece of history in your wedding ceremony.

    Have you written your wedding ceremony yet or are you using a script provided by your officiant?

    DC's First Gay Marriages

    Gay marriage has officially come to DC and the first gay weddings took place today.

    Three couples married in HRC's national headquarters and the video of their ceremonies is below  Enjoy the gay marriages and fabulous gay weddings to come!


    Thoughts on Engagement & Wedding Rings for Gay Couples

    I had a great question the other day I wanted to answer here:  Do gay couples wear wedding bands along with the engagement ring? For example, When two men marry will one of them wear an additional band to compliment the engagement ring?

    In my observation, many men will only wear one ring, not two. In this case, often the engagement ring will double as a wedding band. 

    Younger lesbian brides (those under 40) are likelier to wear two rings. For example, my wife Jen, like many lesbians, wears her engagement ring and wedding band next to each other on the same finger. This is very common, and of course, traditional. My engagement ring doesn't have a stone (my choice) so my engagement ring is now on the ring finger of my right hand, and my wedding band is on the ring finger of my left hand. 

    I've noticed that gay and lesbian couples who are older and/or who've been together for a long time, already wear rings and in this case, usually substitute those rings with new wedding bands, forgoing an engagement ring altogether. These couples are also less likely to have had a traditional "pop the question" proposal experience, hence the lack of engagement rings.

    What did you decide to do?

    Applying to Get Married in DC (for same-sex couples)

    Same-sex couples are - this very second! - lining up to apply for marriage licenses in DC!

    History is being made as the 6th state in the country grants marriage equality.  

    Here's the rundown of what you should know!

    Hours of Operation - Mondays-Fridays: 8:30a.m.-5:00p.m.

    Address
    Moultrie Courthouse
    500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 4485
    Washington, D.C. 20001
    Phone: (202) 879-4840

    Tips
    • The front door may be crowded but there are two other entrances
    • If you're one of the first 200 couples, you'll get a free cupcake from Hello Cupcake! 
    • Complete and print out your marriage application online before you go
    • Bring cash, at least $35
    • Bring a photo ID
    • There is a 3 day waiting period before you get your license so you can't get married until March 10th.
    • Be patient!  There will be long lines even though they've brought in extra staff to help.
    • Ignore any annoying protesters
    Happy gay marriage in DC!  Did you apply today?  What was the scene like?

    Maryland & Gay Marriage

    Maryland residents should take note:  Attorney General Douglas Gansler issued a decision earlier this week indicating that state agencies should begin recognizing gay marriages performed in states where its legal.  You can read the NY Times article here.

    The states where gay marriage is currently legal are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire - and soon, DC.

    Couples should note that their gay marriage won't be recognized by the federal government but state recognition is a giant leap forward in the right direction.

    14 Stories offers destination wedding packages for Marylanders and those from other states.  You can read more about those packages here.

    Are you thinking of marrying now that Maryland will recognize your union?

    A History Lesson: Gay Marriage Timeline (in the US)

    A History Lesson – the timeline of gay marriage in the US

    • November 18, 2003: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court gives the state legislature 180 days to enact same-sex marriage. 
    • February 11, 2004: The Massachusetts General Court (legislature) completes the first step in a process that would ban same-sex marriage. The process is not continued. 
    • February 12 – March 11, 2004: The Mayor San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, orders City Hall to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
    • May 17, 2004: Same-sex marriage starts in Massachusetts. 
    • August 12, 2004: The California Supreme Court rules that the San Francisco marriages are void. 
    • September 29, 2005: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a same-sex marriage bill that was approved by the legislature.. 
    • October 12, 2007: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes same-sex marriage bill that was approved by the legislature. 
    • May 15, 2008: The Supreme Court of California overturns the state's ban on same-sex marriage. 
    • June 16, 2008: Same-sex marriage starts in California. 
    • September 10, 2008: HB436, a bill that seeks to "eliminates the exclusion of same gender couples from marriage", is submitted to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. 
    • October 10, 2008: The Supreme Court of Connecticut orders same-sex marriage legalized. 
    • November 4, 2008: California voters pass Proposition 8, amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. 
    • November 5, 2008: Proposition 8 takes effect in California, stopping new same-sex marriage licenses from being issued after this date. 
    • November 12, 2008: Same-sex marriage starts in Connecticut. 
    • March 26, 2009: HB436 supporting same-sex marriage passes the New Hampshire House of Representatives. 
    • April 3, 2009: The Iowa Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. 
    • April 6, 2009: A same-sex marriage bill is passed by the Vermont General Assembly and then vetoed by the governor. 
    • April 7, 2009: The Vermont General Assembly overrides the governor's veto of the same-sex marriage bill. 
    • b Connecticut governor signs legislation which statutorily legalizes same-sex marriage (see Oct. 10 and Nov. 12, 2008), and also converts any existing civil unions into marriages as of October 1, 2010. 
    • April 27, 2009: Same-sex marriage starts in Iowa. 
    • April 29, 2009: HB436 supporting same-sex marriage passes the New Hampshire Senate with minor amendments. 
    • May 6, 2009: Maine Governor Baldacci signs Marriage Equality Bill. The New Hampshire House of Representatives concurs with the Senate's amendments to HB436, and the bill supporting same-sex marriage advances to Governor John Lynch. 
    • May 12, 2009: A same-sex marriage bill passes in the lower house New York Assembly. 
    • May 26, 2009: The California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, but also upholds the marriage rights of the 18,000 same-sex couples married while same-sex marriage had been briefly legalized. 
    • June 3, 2009: The New Hampshire General Court passes new HB73, which includes protections for religious institutions, as required by Gov. John Lynch to secure his signature on HB436, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Gov. Lynch signs both bills the same day. 
    • September 1, 2009: Same-sex marriage starts Vermont. 
    • September 14, 2009: Same-sex marriage was scheduled to start in Maine, but was put on hold because enough signatures were collected to make this a ballot initiative. 
    • November 3, 2009:  Voters in Maine voted down gay marriage, therefore nullifying the law passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.
    • December 15, 2009:  The DC Council voted to legalize gay marriage and the bill was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty three days later.
    • January 1, 2010: Same-sex marriage starts in New Hampshire.
    What's the status of gay marriage where you live?

    Certified Copy of Your Marriage License

    It sounds like such a boring topic but the reality is that if you want to change your name or get on your spouse's health insurance plan, or get new passports after your gay marriage, you need a certified copy of your marriage license.

    After you get married, the state of Massachusetts and the cities don't send you a single thing in the mail.  It's all on file in some ginormous filing room somewhere.  As far as they're concerned, you're married and they don't need to remind you of that fact.

    But you still need that certified copy.  Since many of our clients live in other states, sometime after the wedding, they have to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to City Hall with another form filled out, and a few weeks after that, they'll get the certified copy in the mail.  It's one more step couples have to go through.

    Beginning in 2010, 14 Stories will obtain certified copies of your marriage license for you, saving you the time and hassle.  You won't even have to think about it anymore.  The certified copy will come in the mail about a month after your gay wedding.  Pretty easy stuff, so you can then go get your name changed or just frame it for posterity.