The Gay Marriage “Legal Netherworld”

For same-sex couples, a patchwork of marriage laws: “When government forms inquire of her marital status, Isabelle Barker sometimes resorts to an asterisk and an explanatory note.

She and her wife, Cara Palladino, got married five years ago in Massachusetts. Six months later, for job reasons, they moved to Pennsylvania – one of the majority of states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.

Hence the asterisk.

‘I’m not single. I’m married in Massachusetts, but I’m not married in Pennsylvania, I’m not married in the eyes of the federal government,’ she said.  ‘It’s this weird limbo, this legal netherworld.”

When it comes to gay marriage in the US “legal netherworld,” many struggle to understand and explain exactly how it works.  To me, it makes almost as much sense as race laws that once caused someone to change race upon crossing stateliness (because if you were this fraction or greater here, you were this instead of that, but if you were that fraction or greater there, you there that instead of this; you see?).  Here, you have marriage, same as straight people.  There, you can’t even make love without it being against the law, let alone put a ring on it. 

With Prop 8 and other various state legislation coming and going from headlines and debate rooms, it seems the netherworld is doomed to get cloudier and more confusing before the skies clear and the light shines through.

As a friend recently put it, “Gay marriage will become legal; it’s just a matter of when.”  Until then, gay couples must struggle for legal recognition, gaining and losing it as quickly as they cross state lines.

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