Same Sex Relationships

Pennsylvania does not allow for marriage between persons of the same gender. In fact, Pennsylvania does not recognize as valid marriages performed in other states that do allow same sex marriages. However, same sex couples in a committed relationship may make provisions for each other using traditional partnership principles.

For example, a couple can own property – real or personal – as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Under this method of ownership, an asset will pass automatically to a co-owner at the death of the first owner. Same sex couples can also provide for each other in Wills, and by beneficiary designation. However, the inheritance tax advantages allowed to married couples do not apply to same sex couples.

Same sex couples can also provide for each other, and define their rights and responsibilities to each other, by a Co-habitation Agreement. This is a contract that details how property is to be owned, and divided in the event the relationship ends. The contract can also provide that one partner has a duty to support the other during the relationship, or if it ends. Same sex partners that end their relationship cannot use the Pennsylvania Divorce Laws to divide property, even if lawfully married in another state.1  A legal action called partition is available if the partners cannot decide how to divide mutually acquired property.

Same sex couples are permitted to adopt children in Pennsylvania. The process is a bit more complicated than for single persons or married couples.

Same sex couples have the custody rights, and child support duties, for children of the relationship, but not for the other's children.    3/11

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