Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Judge Declares Deceased Lesbian Married to Lover

Last week, Pennsylvania's Bucks County Court of Common Pleas Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr. declared Sabrina Maurer of Doylestown, PA to be the legal same-sex spouse of Kimberly Underwood, who died in 2013, because the couple had participated in a union ceremony at a Maplewood, New Jersey Episcopal church in 2001.  The judge's ruling yields a financial windfall to the otherwise legally-single Maurer.
"Is this going to create an avalanche of issues that are going to crop up?  I think it's very possible, for better or worse."
-- Attorney Helen Casale, "Gay Marriage" activist
For background on out-of-control judicial activism, read Liberal Judges Say Justice Scalia was Right on 'Gay Marriage' over a Decade Ago as well as Louisiana Supremes Slam U.S. Supremes — 'Gay Marriage'

Also read Polygamy License Legitimacy Now Considered in Montana

-- From "Bucks judge recognizes same-sex common-law marriage" by Ben Finley, Staff Writer, The Philadelphia Inquirer 7/31/15

The decision, handed down Wednesday by Bucks County Court Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr., is believed to be the first in which a same-sex union was recognized retroactively, according to Mary Hackett, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer with the Reed Smith firm.

Hackett represented Sabrina Maurer, a Doylestown woman who married Kimberly Underwood in a religious ceremony in 2001. Underwood died of heart disease in 2013. Pennsylvania began recognizing common-law marriages in 2005 and same-sex marriage in 2014.

Hackett offered free legal counsel to Maurer after reading about her situation on Facebook.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Same-sex couple in Pa. declared spouses even though one partner died before legalization" by Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press 8/1/15

The effects of Fritsch's decision could also be thorny, especially if judges around the state concur. Courts would have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a common-law marriage applied, and whether petitioners should be granted alimony, marital assets, inheritance-tax refunds or even backdated marriage licenses.

[Maurer] and Underwood had been married before 100 people in an Episcopal church in Maplewood, New Jersey, in 2001. They shared bank accounts and exchanged power of attorney. And Underwood's parents, Michael and Patricia Underwood of Haddonfield, New Jersey, supported Maurer's claim of survivorship. "I'm hopeful that this helps other people who might not have had the same support of their relationship when their partner was alive," Maurer, a 47-year-old medical writer, said Friday.

Maurer does not expect an appeal. She has settled with an insurance company over Underwood's death benefits, and said the state - which under Gov. Tom Wolf did not contest her suit - seems poised to refund her inheritance taxes.

"The important part to Sabrina is that the marriage was validated," Hackett said Friday. "(She) hopes that people take a look at their rights, at things they were deprived of - benefits, status - and reconsider whether or not they have legal rights ... to try to undo what was done in the past."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Same-sex couple receive retroactive common-law marriage status in Pennsylvania" by Kim Lyons, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 8/4/15

Now, some two years after Ms. Underwood’s death, their union has received retroactive legal recognition as a common law marriage. Ms. Maurer is now entitled to full spousal rights, and will have some $9,000 she paid in inheritance taxes returned to her.

Loosely defined, a common law marriage is one in which the couple represent themselves as being married and participates in a union that resembles a marriage, but which has not been formally recorded with a state.

“Their marriage is valid and enforceable, and they are entitled to all rights and privileges of validly licensed, married spouses in all respects under the laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Judge C. Theodore Fritsch of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas said in his order, issued Wednesday.

“I do think other couples might be able to go back and do something retroactively now,” Ms. Hackett said. “It’s an area people ought to be exploring. Sabrina really wanted to encourage people to look at their rights in this evolving area of the law.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Widow rejoices as Bucks judge affirms common-law marriage for same-sex couple" by Laura Benshoff, education reporter with WHYY (posted at newsworks.org) 8/1/15

Pennsylvania abolished common law marriage in 2005, but any marriage that predates that change still counts.

Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr.'s declaration states that Mauer and Underwood were married prior to that deadline, "[entering] into a valid and enforceable marriage, under Pennsylvania common law, on Sept. 2, 2001, and [remaining] married ... until the time of Kimberly M. Underwood's death on Nov. 20, 2013."

Self-described "Philly gay lawyer" Angela Giampolo disagreed with Frisch's interpretation of law.

"The ruling may be on the right side of history," she said, "but it's on the wrong side of the law."

Her reason? When common-law marriage was recognized in Pennsylvania, it clearly only applied to a man and woman.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Common Law Marriage Retroactively Applied to Same-Sex Couple" by Gina Passarella, The Legal Intelligencer 7/30/15

The court agreed with Maurer's arguments, declaring Maurer and Underwood had entered into a valid common law marriage in Pennsylvania on Sept. 2, 2001, which was the date of their New Jersey commitment ceremony. The court said the couple remained married until Underwood's death in November 2013.

Maurer filed her petition in the fall of 2014 and the judge asked that she put on notice the state attorney general, the state Department of Revenue and any entity from which Maurer would seek benefits, Hackett said. One company settled for a confidential amount and was dismissed from the case. The Department of Revenue sought additional time to respond and then in April 2015 said it was not taking a position on the matter. A representative from the department was in court Wednesday in support of Maurer, Hackett said. No one else took a position on the matter, she said.

Hackett said this case is an example of how the law on same-sex marriage is still evolving. She said it raises the question of whether same-sex couples who are both still living can seek marriage licenses that provide retroactive applications of their civil commitments.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read Most Liberals Say American Morals Getting Worse