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Gay Marriage Rights in Arizona

The Supreme Court recently deemed the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it denied same-sex couples who are legally married the same benefits that heterosexual married couples receive…. But that doesn’t mean that there will be equality for same-sex couples here in Arizona. Why?

Arizona is one of the most unique cases in the sticky web of the SCOTUS decision; the ruling doesn’t guarantee that AZ has to respect the same-sex marriage, nor does it make same-sex couples eligible for all marriage-based federal benefits.

Here are two reasons:

1.  If you travel to a state that recognizes same sex marriage and then establish residency in a state that does not, you will be unable to obtain a divorce, which can lead to serious legal and financial consequences.

2.  Federal agencies are inconsistent when they look to determine a marriage’s validity for federal purposes, some look to the state where the couple was wed, others look at the couple’s place of residence to determine eligibility of federal benefits.

We at the Pride Guides asked “What are our Gay Marriage Rights in Arizona after the Supreme Court Ruling?” Knowing that this would be something a lot of people in our community would be interested in we decided to do a little research.

When trying to find someone qualified to answer our questions, we found Norma Izzo Milner.  She is a member at Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, PLC and leads the firm’s practice area of family law and domestic relations matters, including Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, Parent Coordination, Custody and Child Support.  Norma focuses her practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution and perceives practicing in the area of family law as a three dimensional experience: legal; financial; and emotional.

Here is what Ms. Milner had to offer us when asked a few questions about our rights.

1.  What rights if any will Gay Couples living in Arizona have but get married in states like California or New York?

Gay couples who are legally married but reside in Arizona will have immediate access to some federal rights and benefits.  Each federal agency approaches eligibility differently.  Some agencies, like the IRS and Social Security, look to the laws of the state where a married couple lives.  Other agencies, such as immigration, look to where the couple married.

2.  What if a gay couple has a Civil Union in a state such Hawaii or Illinois but lives in Arizona how does that affect them? And is there is difference if they have a civil union in Tucson ?

Arizona does not recognize civil unions or marriages between same sex couples.  At this time, it is unclear whether the recent repeal of DOMA will be sufficient to provide civil unionized couples with the rights and obligations of federal laws.

3.  If a Gay Couple living in Arizona and had a civil union in Hawaii are they able to obtain a marriage license in California?

In all likelihood, the answer is yes.  However, entering into various unions and marriages in multiple states could create legal complications in the event you decide to dissolve your legal relationship.

4.  Do you have suggestions how couples can protect themselves in Arizona.

If a gay couple would like to enter into a legal marriage or civil union in a State that recognizes same sex marriages and unions, the couple should really plan ahead.  Consult with your accountant and attorney to determine how a marriage may impact your federal benefits and tax liabilities taking into consideration where you reside.  If you are residing in a state that will not recognize your civil union or your legal marriage, take precautions by executing health care directives and financial powers of attorney.

If you would like to find out more information you can contact

Ms. Milner of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, PLC
(602) 262-5911
1 E. Washington St., Ste. 1900
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Norma Izzo Milner

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