So let’s say your married to your spouse for years, you’ve raised kids together, he or she decides to have gender re-assignment surgery and you choose to stay together.
If your state does not recognize same-sex marriages — and 49 states don’t — are you still married? The Brunners, a New Jersey couple, is trying to find out.
Massachusetts is the only state to have legalized same-sex marriage, and the Brunners are two women married to each other in New Jersey. As this state (along with Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire) confronts challenges over whether its civil unions fulfill the mandate of providing same-sex couples equal rights and benefits, the Brunners offer themselves as Exhibit A on how the nation’s dizzying patchwork of marriage laws, which include the domestic partnerships of California and other states, may be out of step with people’s lives.
The Brunners say they have no interest in obtaining a civil union — they consider it a downgrading of their relationship — but they do worry about their status.
What if the Internal Revenue Service questions their joint tax returns? What if they retire to North Carolina, a state that they say is less legally friendly to transsexuals and same-sex couples? What if they were taking their daughter Jessica to college in Pennsylvania, and were in a car wreck that left Denise unconscious — would the authorities accept Fran as her wife?
“Are they going to recognize that she can make the decision for me?” Denise asked. “We don’t know that, and that’s not the time I want to contest that in court.”