Vacation of the Adoption Decree Solemnizes the Marriage of a Gay Couple

Bill Novak and Norman MacArthur, a legalized same-sex couple in New York since 1994 moved to Philadelphia nearly 20 years ago, and were dismayed to learn that Pennsylvania would not recognize their domestic partnership. Finding no other alternative to continue staying together, in 2000, Bill adopted Norman, two years his junior as his son as a means of accessing some legal rights. This reduced their inheritance tax liability and gave them hospital visitation and other legal rights, which were then unavailable to same-sex couples.

The ban on same-sex marriages was lifted last year by a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The judge declared Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws as unconstitutional, which prohibited same-sex marriage and treated those marriages of same-sex couples that are validly entered into in other states Bill and Norman sought to get married.

Bill and Norman sought to get married as soon as the ban was lifted. The couple, who had been together for more than fifty years, now wanted to tie the knot now, but their legal status as father and son stood in the way.

However, the resolution to this was found in Judge Gary B. Gilman of Bucks County Orphans’ Court decision, who vacated the adoption decree on May 14, 2015. In the words of Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia attorney specializing in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender law, “[w]hat a lot of advocates … were saying was this was delegitimizing” of same-sex relationships. She was also of the opinion that unlike a marriage, an adoption could not be undone. The couple’s attorney, Terry Clemons opined that this was the first time a same-sex couple in Pennsylvania petitioned to have their adoption dissolved in order to get married.

After the judge’s order, Norman and Bill applied straight away for a marriage license, and finally got married in ten days.


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