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Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Minnesota — But Are Your Rights Protected?

In August 2013, Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage. This law followed on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor in June 2013 that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA barred the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages allowed in many states, meaning legally married couples were denied the federal rights enjoyed by heterosexual spouses.

In combination, the HF 1054 amendments to the Minnesota marriage statutes and DOMA protect the rights of same-sex couples under Minnesota and federal laws. However, married couples may still face discrimination when they travel or move to other states or if they own out-of-state property.

It seems likely that one day, all states will grant equal marital rights. Until that day comes, take steps to protect yourself and your family, including:

  • Custody rights outside of Minnesota You may be considered the legal parent to your partner’s biological or adopted child in Minnesota, but this relationship may not be recognized in other states. If your child becomes injured while travelling, you may be denied the authority to make crucial medical decisions. A power of attorney can help you overcome this precarious position.
  • End of life and medical decisions for your spouse You also might be denied the authority to make medical decisions about your spouse. All adults should have a living will (often called a healthcare declaration in Minnesota) to express their wishes should they become incapacitated. A living will becomes even more important if you want your same-sex spouse to make these decisions should you become ill in a state that does not recognize your marital relationship.
  • Property ownership outside of Minnesota Real estate acquired after marriage is typically considered marital property and is titled as tenancy by the entirety. If one of you dies, the probate court would rule according to laws regarding spouses. However, your spouse could be in for a battle if your family claims ownership to property located in another state and titled solely in your name. Deeding as joint tenants with right of survivorship can rectify this potential problem.

A Minnesota family law attorney can answer your questions about the new Minnesota and federal laws affecting same-sex marriages.

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