Will the U.S. Supreme Court History Repeat Itself Again?

A look back into the history of this country illustrates that the fight over whether same-sex marriage should be allowed is yet another hotly debated issue that has divided this country and challenged our long-standing notions of morality and tradition.  Less than a century ago the thought of women having a right to vote was deemed unconscionable.  Today women cannot even fathom the fact that they could have ever been denied such a fundamental right as citizens.   About fifty years ago African-Americans fought to have the same rights as white Americans to vote, to frequent public establishments, and to utilize public transportation; whether black children should be allowed to attend the same schools as white children was hotly disputed; blacks were denied admittance into graduate schools, and interracial marriages were prohibited.   Today our country is being led by a black (or to be more accurate – interracial) president who attended an Ivy League law school.  The contested list of constitutional rights is long.   And if an old adage that “history tends to repeat itself” is true, then it is just a matter of time before the right to a same-sex marriage becomes the supreme law of the land, and protests and debates are featured on the History channel.  Until then, we just have to wait and watch as this fight plays out in the courts, in the Congress, in the upcoming presidential elections, and in our streets.… <Read More>

Perfect exam problem: who gets the estate when Canadian same-sex marital partner dies in a state that doesn’t permit gay marriage?

Suppose a law firm partner of a Philadelphia law firm whose job is in Chicago, marries her sweetie in Canada, and then, sadly, only a few years thereafter, dies of cancer at age 37?  Who gets her law firm profit-sharing account: her parents or her spouse?

That’s what happened in a case that has put the Pennsylvania law firm of Cozen O’Connor in the midst of a battle between the parents of Sarah Ellyn Farley and her wife, Jennifer Tobits, to whom she was validly married in Canada in 2006.  According to an article in the ABA Journal by Martha Neil, the parents claim that they are entited to the money, because their daughter executed a beneficiary designation form in their favor shortly before she died. They claim that the marriage wasn’t valid in Pennsylvania or Illinois.  The firm apparently says that the beneficiary form lacks a necessary signature and has asked the courts to determine who gets the money.

What a great exam question — of course, it would have to be a take home, because one would need to reasearch whether Illinois and Pennsylvania recognize validly performed marriages from other jurisdictions, as New York’s courts have.  That turns on whether such marriages — even when valid — offend the important and deeply held public policies of the state (in this case Illinois or Pennsylvania). … <Read More>