It goes without saying that May 20, 2014 will be remembered by many as a watershed date in Pennsylvania history. On that date, the very definition of “marriage” changed in Pennsylvania. While the legislatures of many states had struggled with this issue for years, the Pennsylvania Legislature remained steadfast in their definition of marriage, i.e., the union of one man to one woman.
However, in a case captioned Whitewood v. Wolf, The Honorable John E. Jones, III, from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in a wellreasoned and lengthily decision, found that it is unconstitutional to prevent samesex couples from marrying, since allowing heterosexual couples to do so would deprive samesex couples of the rights and privileges enjoyed by others. In legal terms, the Court found that depriving samesex couples of the right to marry deprived samesex couples of Equal Protection and Due Process under the United States Constitution.
Once that decision was announced, Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania then had the opportunity to appeal this ruling. However, he announced one day later that he would not do so. Hence, Whitewood is now the law in Pennsylvania.
Now that we have samesex marriage in Pennsylvania, it follows that we would have samesex divorce, both for people married outside of Pennsylvania and those who will be married in Pennsylvania. There are many questions, however, which need to be addressed.
One very important question is whether assets and debts will be valued as of the date of marriage, for samesex couples or at the date same-sex marriage was created in Pennsylvania, i.e., May 20, 2014.
For example: In 2010, a samesex couple resides in Pennsylvania and this couple travels to Massachusetts to marry. Thereafter, they return to Pennsylvania to live. Of course, since this marriage occurred before Whitewood, this marriage would not be recognized in Pennsylvania at that time. The issue then becomes will assets be valued as of 2010, the date of marriage or May 20, 2014, the date of the Whitewood decision?
We believe that they will be valued as of the date of marriage, however, this is just our opinion. We will have to await further guidance from the Court.