When a 47-year-old Edgewater resident and her partner get ready to travel, the first thing they think about is their legal documents. The couple, who have an adopted son, note that for same-sex couples who travel nearly anywhere bringing a power of attorney is a must. Taking legal documents along helps avoid complications in many situations, a perfect example of the challenges domestic partners face everyday.
On June 1, same-sex marriage will be allowed in Illinois. Although same-sex couples are definitely pleased with the development, some concerns remain. Gay and lesbian couples must consider the legal issues they might face both in and out of the state.
For example, same-sex marriage is only allowed in the District of Columbia and 16 states, including Illinois. When couples visit states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, there is the potential for legal difficulty. Avoiding such states may not always be possible.
The Edgewater couple frequently visits family in Missouri. Unfortunately, that state has no laws allowing same-sex unions. Both fear that if something happened to them on a trip that required hospitalization, the lack of legal recognition of their marriage might keep one or the other out of the decision-making process. There is precedence for this. In 2008, a lesbian couple sued after one partner suffered an aneurysm, and the other was denied by the hospital the power to make health decisions in her partner’s behalf.
Indiana and Kentucky similarly have no laws that protect someone’s use of public accommodations, regardless of sexual orientation. Theoretically, a hospital can refuse to allow a gay partner to visit.
Although same-sex couples are getting more of the rights they deserve, many issues still need to be addressed. Illinois couples who need guidance with such issues should seek the advice of a knowledgeable family law professional.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Same-sex marriage still leaves legal hurdles for couples,” Maudlyne Ihejirika, Jan. 18, 2014