By Stephen W. Sather
Barron & Newburger, P.C.
The recent Supreme Court decision requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages has generated substantial controversy in the political world, but what does it mean for bankruptcy courts? The obvious answer is that more people will be able to file joint bankruptcy petitions than before. However, going from a system where some marriages were legally recognized in certain jurisdictions but not others to one where they must be permitted everywhere is likely to result in confusion for practitioners and courts alike for years to come. This post will attempt to point out some of the issues involved.
A Short History of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States
For most of the nation’s history, marriage was limited to couples of different genders. In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibited the United States government from recognizing any marriage other than one between a man and a woman. In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court entered a ruling which made that state the first in the nation to recognize same sex marriage. As a few other states followed suit, it became possible to have a marriage which was sanctioned by a particular state but not by the federal government.