By: John M. Schaffranek, Esq.
For a number of years, some states offered civil unions to same-sex partners as a way to approximate the benefits, protections, and responsibilities that often accompany marriage. Pennsylvania never had a law permitting or prohibiting civil unions. During the time when same-sex couples could not marry, however, many sought out civil unions.
Situations where current Pennsylvania residents who have entered a civil union in another state and now wish to have the union dissolved present a problematic legal set of circumstances in that no Pennsylvania court has yet determined that it has the authority to dissolve civil unions performed elsewhere. Additionally, most states that permit civil unions require that the parties live there at the time they request dissolution of the union. The exceptions, with differing limitations, are Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, and Vermont.
Under current law in Pennsylvania, residents in civil unions from other states may be without recourse to have Pennsylvania dissolve that relationship. The Pennsylvania General Assembly potentially could empower Pennsylvania courts to address this problem. There also is currently a case on appeal before the Pennsylvania Superior Court to determine if Pennsylvania courts already have this authority.