Margaret Klaw is a founding partner of Berner Klaw & Watson, a law firm in Philadelphia, and author of the forthcoming book “Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-Nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer.”
When the Supreme Court ruled a key aspect of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional last month, it made a life-changing difference to many married same-sex couples, who will now be entitled to all the federal benefits they were previously denied. But those gay couples whose marriages aren’t working out remain in legal purgatory.
Divorce is solely the province of state law. If a couple who were wed in New York but live in Philadelphia want to be divorced, well, they can’t be. Not only is same-sex marriage prohibited in Pennsylvania — the court’s landmark ruling in United States v. Windsor does nothing to change that — but Pennsylvania’s “mini DOMA,” passed in 1996, provides that such a marriage entered into elsewhere is “void in this Commonwealth.” And if Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize you as being married, its courts have no authority to divorce you.