One of the most exciting and rapidly changing areas of the law today concerns the rights, protections and legal status of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. This diverse body of law touches upon education, housing, employment discrimination and benefits, adoption, marriage and family recognition, immigration, as well as privacy and personal freedom.
Massachusetts was the first state in the country to recognize full marriage equality among its citizens. Massachusetts also recognizes the right to adopt children without regard to sexual orientation or marriage status. Comprehensive state non-discrimination laws protect individuals from discrimination in employment, housing and education based on sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, the protections and rights afforded LGBT persons change dramatically state to state, and the current federal Defense of Marriage Act creates complex conflicts between Massachusetts and federal law. Same-sex couples should seek experienced legal counsel when planning for marriage or adoption, purchasing or transferring ownership of real property, and in planning for end-of-life issues such as medical decision-making and estate administration and distribution.
Adoption & Reproductive Law
Adoption is the legal transfer of all parental rights, protections and responsibilities from one person or couple to another person or couple. Since the groundbreaking case of Adoption of Tammy in 1993, Massachusetts has recognized the right of both single and partnered gays and lesbians to be adoptive parents. While the process varies depending on the type of adoption contemplated, the Probage and Family Court requires that each adoption comply with a number of legal and non-legal procedures and requirements prior to approval and finalization.
Whether you are contemplating open adoption, international or domestic adoption, or co-parent adoption of a spouse or partner's child, our firm can effectively coordinate all parties, court, and state agencies to ensure a seemless and enjoyable adoption process. Often, certain requirements can be expidited or even dispensed with entirely, saving our clients both time and money.
Since the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in 2003, Massachusetts has recognized the right of same-sex couples to choose to marry. This entitles same-sex couples to the same protections, rights and responsibilities afforded opposite-sex couples. However, gay and lesbian couples face unique challenges in protecting jointly owned property or in dividing assets in case the relationship ends.
Complications arise for couples who choose not to marry, and for married couples who live, vacation, or own property in a state other than Massachusetts. In these and a variety of other situations, the state may not recognize your relationship for purposes of inheritence, property ownership and division, adoption, custody and child support. In both family creation and dissolution, VAUGHN-MARTEL LAW can help married and unmarried couples protect each other, their children and their property in a number of ways, including:
- Domestic Partnership Agreements
- Prenuptial Agreements
- Surrogacy and Donor Agreements
- Separation Agreements/Divorce
- Comprehensive Estate and Health Care Planning
If you have not put your wishes in a legal document, you forfeit the right to choose who will make vital decisions about your health care and finances in the event you are disabled or incapacitated. Without a will and other important estate planning instruments in place, the state will decide who should make important financial and medical decisions for you. Your partner may have no legal right to inherit your property, raise your children, or even visit you in the hospital without proper legal documents and advance planning.
Our firm can help you establish or reorganize an estate plan which addresses the unique concerns of gay and lesbian couples and that addresses the complexities and conflicts in state and federal laws relating to property ownership, marriage recognition, gifts, and taxation.
Be sure to check our legal blog, Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Legal Briefs, for legal updates, news, and resources.