If I Marry Legally In The U.S., Will My Marriage Be Recognized In My Home Country?

Scales of JusticeWe recently received an international inquiry and we are happy to answer here for the benefit of all of you! This is, after all, a common question.

The engaged, same-sex couple wants to know if a same-sex marriage conducted in the United States, in a state where such nuptials are legal, would be legal in their home country.

This questions raises, essentially, all of the same questions as the question of whether such a marriage conducted in one state will be recognized in another.

In short, it depends.

Folks of all stripes (straight, gay, whatever), participate in valid marriage ceremonies abroad. For the same-sex set, whether those marriages are recognized in their home countries (or states for that matter) will depend on the laws of the newlyweds home country (or state).

Here’s a state-side example: a same-sex couple travels to Provincetown, Massachusetts to get married. They comply with all of the laws of the state of Massachusetts (waiting periods, officiant, paper work, etc). They go on their honeymoon to Florida (where they are no longer recognized as married and so may run up against many of the problems we’ve cautioned about in previous articles, such as one parnter being in an accident and requiring medical care and decisions made by a next of kin), before returning to the legally-gray jurisdiction of New York (where we have a pretty good Attorney General’s opinion suggesting that the state will recognize validly performed, same-sex marriages from other states, but no statute or case law confirming that opinion).

The same sort of legal checkerboard applies to the international couple: recognition will be determined by the physical space you occupy and the laws of that space.

We wish we had more straight-forward news. Not that long ago, we worried that we’d never see same-sex marriage in the United States in our lifetime. Now we feel confident that it’s just a matter of time. But before the legal checkerboard of our world and the various jurisdictions within it fades into the pages of our history books, we have to acknowledge that so much is dependent on the strength or weaknesses of a confusing array of laws on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.

Chin up. We still seem to be trending toward the better. And remember, we welcome your questions and encourage you to ask them before your big day.

Legally Yours,

Heather & Emily



Photo Credit: © Tmcnem | Dreamstime.com

Heather McCabe and Emily Russell are family law practitioners who regularly serve the LGBT community in all kinds of legal affairs – from adoptions to dissolutions/divorces. McCabe has taught family law and legal writing and has been on the faculty at Georgetown Law, American University, and University of Baltimore. Russell worked as a lobbyist before coming to the law. Whether through document drafting, mediation, collaborative law, or litigation, McCabe and Russell are committed to the creation and security of the unique families they serve.