Photo courtesy of Jazz Not Jazz
From courts grappling with the issues of gay civil unions and marriage, and rights of gay couples to adopt children, comes a different type of case out of Maine.
A gay woman formally adopted her partner in a lesbian partnership, with the intention of securing her dependent partner’s rights to inherit from her well-to-do family in the event of the partner’s death.
As a result of the couple’s eventual separation, complex cases are now pending in two different states - New York and Maine - cases which turn upon technicalities, policy arguments and substantive legal grounds.
Some of the Technicalities: The couple actually resided in New York, which explicitly barred adoption between sexual partners, reserving it for parent/child relationships. The adoption in question apparently took place during an extended getaway in Maine, which had no such explicit prohibition. Maine’s jurisdiction is called into question based both on failure to meet the residency requirement and affirmative fraud upon the court.
Some of the Policies: If the elected officials of a state deny inheritance rights to resident gay partners through either marriage or civil unions, should resident gay partners be allowed to circumvent their home state’s social legislative policy by exploiting the less strict adoption laws of a different, more convenient state?
Some of the Substantive Legal Grounds: The creator of the trust that is at the heart of the matter reportedly did not even know about the adoption which turned the woman that he knew only as his daughter’s gay partner into his legal grandchild - and an heir to his trust. As for estate planning law, should his alleged intentions be thwarted by undisclosed, unforeseeable legal maneuvers by his daughter and her partner?
On the practical side, if the adoption is upheld, Maine might develop a “cottage industry” of hosting gay partner-adoptions for inheritance rights on behalf of homosexuals all over the world.
Of course, none of this would be in issue if the gay community could simply automatically inherit from each other by virtue of marriage or civil union.
This unusual case may turn out to be more significant than it looks.