Waldlaw Blog

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is My Marriage Valid? Is it Recognized?

Continuing with top questions of the week.... There are same-sex couples all over the country who have already been married for several years. Some married in Massachusetts. Some married in Canada. Some married in Spain. They are trying to figure out if their marriages are now valid in California. The answer is: if your marriage was valid when it was entered into, it is valid now -- and it has been valid this whole time. But now California will recognize it and assign legal rights and responsibilities accordingly. The important thing is to distinguish between valid and recognized. A valid marriage is a valid marriage is a valid marriage (to borrow a concept from Gertrude Stein) -- it just won't be recognized everywhere. An invalid marriage, on the other hand, did not magically become valid in California on June 16, 2008. Four examples: (1) Ann and Barbara traveled to Canada to marry. They followed all the proper procedures, and entered into a valid marriage in August, 2006. As of June 16, 2008, that valid marriage is now recognized in California. Their date of marriage remains the date they married in 2006, even if they go through a new marriage ceremony in California now. (2) Chad and Dennis were vacationing in Provincetown in 2005, and decided to get married. They lied to the Clerk to get their license, saying they were moving to Massachusetts. In fact, they returned to California and have stayed here ever since. Their Massachusetts marriage probably wasn't valid under Massachusetts law when it was entered into, since it violated the Massachusetts marriage evasion statute. If it wasn't valid when it was entered into, it still isn't valid. So if they get married now in California, their date of marriage probably will be the new California date. (3) Eve and Francesca got married at San Francisco City Hall in February, 2004, during what is now being called the Winter of Love. Their marriage was subsequently invalidated by the California Supreme Court, which found that it was entered into without legal authority. That marriage remains invalid (legally, that is), even though same-sex marriages are now legal in California. (Because, to borrow from Gertrude Stein again, an invalid marriage is an invalid marriage is an invalid marriage....) (4) Greg and Hans were living in Massachusetts, and married there in 2004. In 2005 they moved to California, where they were treated by law as single people. However, as a technical legal matter they remained married in California -- it's just that their Massachusetts marriage wasn't recognized here until June 16, 2008. Now that same-sex marriages are recognized in California, their marriage is as solid here as it was in Massachusetts and there is no need for them to marry again (and if they choose to do so, their date of marriage will remain 2004). There, that's my best effort at explaining the valid/recognized distinction. When in doubt, ask yourself what Gertrude Stein would say....


  • We have a valid Canadian marriage from 2003. If Prop 8 passes, will the licenses issued by California be recognized after 11/4? Will our Canadian marriage be similarly recognized after 11/4? Is there a step of somehow "entering our Canadian marriage into the California record" that might ensure our recognition after 11/4 on par with those California licenses created during the June 16-Nov 4 hiatus?

    By Blogger KateOHanlanMD, at 8:42 AM  

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