CommunityPam's House Blend

Married in Massachusetts, single in North Carolina

Great article on how a lesbian couple, married in Massachusetts, watched all their legal rights as a married couple slip away once they moved to my state of North Carolina. They settled in Charlotte, which is a large city, but in many ways it’s more conservative (meaning: not as queer-friendly, despite a sizeable gay population) than the Triangle area. Charlotte is a banking metropolis, but it’s also a NASCAR town at heart. (Charlotte Observer):

Karen Kitchens-Law and Mary Stuart Law were sitting in their lawyer’s office in July, closing on their $343,000 home in University City in Charlotte, when they came across a question in the paperwork:

Are you married?

The couple, partners since 1988, had wed in a legal ceremony in their Massachusetts backyard in June, shortly after the state legalized same-sex unions.

“We are married,” Karen Kitchens-Law recalls saying.

Their lawyer answered: “We don’t recognize that here.”

“Single” they wrote on the paperwork.

And so began life in North Carolina for the Law family.

The couple is Exhibit I in the nationwide debate that has led 37 states to ban gay unions. Voters in 11 states did so in November, refusing recognition to same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

The Carolinas have had their laws in place since 1996, when Hawaii considered legalizing same-sex unions. An effort in recent years to put the restriction in the North Carolina Constitution has failed.

But as couples like Karen, an occupational therapist, and Mary, a financial analyst at TIAA-CREF, move out of Massachusetts, they are challenging how their new homes handle their union.

The Laws, who have two adopted children, cannot file their state income taxes jointly this year, as they would have done in Massachusetts.

There, they could visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions on each other’s behalf, or inherit the other’s property in case of death, no questions asked. Here, they need to set up legal documents ensuring all that.

“We’re single again,” Mary says.

It’s not clear what will be proposed, but the wingnuts in the state legislature plan to try again in January to introduce a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It could be a simple definitiion of marriage as between a man and a woman, or it could be an Ohio or Virginia type proposition, which would nullify any legal contracts between same-sex couples that approximate marital rights and prevent civil unions. For more information, see Equality NC.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding