Supreme Court Decision Leads to Same-Sex Marriage Wins

Gay Marriage, James Lange, Retirement, Social Security, Same Sex MarriageOn October 6, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of five cases of same-sex marriage. This decision leaves standing marriage victories in three federal circuits, the 4th, 7th, and 10th and opens the door to the same-sex marriage in many more states.


On October 7th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Nevada and Idaho.


There’s been a lot of progress and soon, same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry not only in 24 states and the District of Columbia, including today’s new additions of Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Virginia – but the path to marriage in 6 other states (Colorado, Kansas, North


Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming) is now paved. Despite the amazing momentum, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to defer for another day the national resolution that Freedom to Marry, businesses, elected officials, and families across the country have urged now.


To keep current with the recent events, please visit www.freedomtomarry.org.  All proceeds from my book goes to Freedom to Marry.

-James Lange


P.S. Once you get married you may be wondering what financial steps to take next. Give us a call today! We would be honored to help you through that process. 412-521-2732 (Western Pennsylvania Residents Only)

The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage on the Accumulation Years

While you are still working, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to contribute the maximum allowable to your retirement plans. Same-sex marriage may afford you additional possibilities to contribute that may not be available to you as an unmarried individual; on the other hand, marriage might also eliminate possibilities to contribute.

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One advantage of marriage comes into play if one member of the couple is not working. This is relevant because you must have earned income to contribute to any IRA, including a Roth IRA. If a couple is not married, and one partner is not working, that non-working partner will not be allowed to contribute to an IRA or a Roth IRA. However, if the couple marries, the nonworking spouse would be able to contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA based upon their working spouse’s income. Marriage makes it possible for the couple to put more money in the tax-deferred or tax-free environment. For example, consider the couple Anne and Susan. In 2014, Anne earns $150,000 per year and is not covered by a retirement plan at work. Susan is not working outside the home. If they are unmarried, Anne can contribute to an IRA, but Susan has no earned income and cannot. If they marry, then both Anne and Susan can each contribute $5,500 ($6,500 if they are age 50 or older) to their respective IRAs.

 

When it comes to Roth IRAs, there is a potential benefit if your income is too high for you to be eligible to make a full Roth IRA contribution. These income limits are different for married and unmarried individuals (refer to table below). You may find that your income is too high for you to make a Roth IRA contribution as an unmarried taxpayer, but you are able to make a contribution as a married taxpayer. For example, consider Anne and Susan again. In 2014, if they are unmarried, neither Anne nor Susan can contribute to their Roth IRAs. Anne earns above the maximum of $129,000 for a single taxpayer and Susan has no earned income. If Anne and Susan marry, then their combined income of $150,000 is under the $181,000 limit for married couples, so they are both permitted to make the maximum allowable contributions to their Roth IRAs.

 

In other cases, marriage may suddenly make you ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. You may find that both you and your partner, as an unmarried couple, are both near the upper income limit for single taxpayers and are able to contribute to Roth IRAs; however, if you were to marry and combine your salaries, you may find yourselves above the Roth IRA limits. Consider a different situation for Anne and Susan. In this case, Anne and Susan each earn $100,000 in 2014. As an unmarried couple, they are each eligible to contribute fully to a Roth IRA, because they are each below the $114,000 limit. If they marry, their combined income would be $200,000, putting them above the $191,000 phase-out limit and preventing both of them from making any Roth IRA contributions at all.

 

Gay Marriage, James Lange, Retire Secure For Same-Sex CouplesGay Marriage, James Lange, Retire Secure For Same-Sex Couples, Pittsburgh, PAGay Marriage, James Lange, Retire Secure For Same-Sex Couples, Western Pennsylvania

Finally, if your income exceeds the limitations for a Roth IRA, consider contributing to a nondeductible IRA. You can convert the nondeductible IRA to a Roth IRA the minute after you make the nondeductible IRA contribution. That is exactly what I do personally, in addition to my 401(k) contribution. So, in January, 2014 I made my 2013 and 2014 nondeductible IRA contributions for me and my wife Cindy (even though she doesn’t work outside the home). We immediately made Roth IRA conversions of the nondeductible IRAs. So, we put away a quick $26,000 tax-free into Roth IRAs ($6,500 each for 2013 and 2014), not including what I contributed to my 401(k). Please note this conversion of nondeductible IRA to a Roth without incurring taxable income only works if you don’t have any traditional IRAs. In effect, after the monkey business, it is just like making a Roth IRA contribution, but you have to do the monkey business first to get around the limitation.

 

Because retirement plans allow your money to grow tax-deferred or tax-free, and we have already seen the enormous power of retirement plans, you may want to consider the impact that marriage will have on your ability to contribute to an IRA or a Roth IRA.

 
Retire Secure! For Same-Sex Couples – James Lange, (pages 61-65) www.outestateplanning.com/contact-us 412-521-2732
 

Same-Sex Couples Nearing Retirement: Get Married

If you're a same-sex couple in a long term committed relationship and are nearing retirement, get married.

Yalman Onaran of Bloomberg News discussed this issue with James Lange of the Lange Financial Group, LLC and had this to say:

“That's the simple advice that emerges from a new book by James Lange, a certified public accountant and attorney who specializes in retirement and estate planning. Of course love and feelings should dictate your decision first, but if you're looking at the financial side of things, then the balance has shifted in favor of marriage since the Supreme Court decision a year ago abolishing the Defense of Marriage Act, Lange argues.”

The chart below shows why marriage would benefit an aging same-sex couple.  A gay or lesbian couple could have higher Social Security benefits, more room to shelter income in IRAs all while avoiding inheritance taxes. 

Same-Sex, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT Couples Nearing Retirement - Get Married

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this article Yalman Onaran touches on some of the caveats to same-sex marriage for financial reasons including whether you live in a state that still doesn’t recognize gay marriage as well as how far you and your partner are from retirement.  He shares his own experience with marriage and the financial benefits that resulted from getting married and how the landscape has changed post the repeal of DOMA.

To read the rest of this article in Bloomberg News, please click on the link below.

Click this link to read the article

Source: Yalman Onaran, Bloomberg News

An Update For Our Pennsylvania Readers

PA Same-Sex Marriage, James Lange, Retirement, DOMAOn May 20, 2014, the gay marriage ban in Pennsylvania was overturned by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III.  In addition, Pennsylvania will now recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states that recognize same-sex marriage.  Governor Tom Corbett has announced that he will not appeal the decision, and for the first time in the state’s history, same-sex couples are now permitted to marry.  This is wonderful news for the residents of our state who have been waiting for a long time to marry their same-sex partners, but it also means that some of the information in this book as it relates to Pennsylvania residents has become outdated (as, frankly, I hoped it would become).  Rather than rewrite the book, I thought it would be simpler to provide Pennsylvania residents with a summary of the areas in which their lives will be affected as a consequence of the Pennsylvania decision.

First, if you’re counting, there are now 32 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage – the original text references 33 states.  Chapter 1 states that there are 17 jurisdictions that allow same-sex couples to legally marry, but, as of May 20, 2014, that number has risen – Pennsylvania became the 18th state (plus the District of Columbia) to do so.

Next, there are several references in the book to the federal criteria of “The State of Celebration vs. the State of Domicile,” as well as recommendations that readers consider marrying in a state that does recognize same-sex marriage.  As of May 20, 2014, same-sex couples who reside in Pennsylvania no longer have to travel out of state to get married – unless, of course, they want to – in order to enjoy the same benefits as straight married couples.  Let’s examine some of those benefits in greater detail.

  • Chapters 1, 4 and 5 discuss some odd Pennsylvania conundrums that, I’m sure, legally married same-sex couples will be very happy to see go by the wayside.  In 2013, legally married (in another state) same-sex couples who lived in Pennsylvania were required to file their Federal tax returns as “Married,” but their State returns as “Single.”  Those taxpayers will finally be able to file both their 2014 Federal and Pennsylvania returns as “Married,” and they also have the option to file amended Federal returns for up to three years prior, if it makes financial sense for them to refile as “Married.” (Marital status does not affect the amount of state tax that Pennsylvania residents pay, so filing amended state returns will not be necessary.)  
  • Chapter 1 recommends that your wills and trusts be prepared based on current laws, but include special provisions in case same-sex marriage becomes legalized in Pennsylvania.  Now that the state recognizes same-sex marriage, such highly customized estate planning documents likely will not be necessary. 
  • The beneficiary of a deceased same-sex partner used to be subject to a 15% Pennsylvania inheritance tax whether they had been unmarried or legally married (in another state), and it was my recommendation that wealthier couples consider either making large financial gifts in order to avoid that tax, or purchase life insurance to pay the tax.  Going forward, those strategies will be irrelevant because those same couples will not pay Pennsylvania inheritance taxes on their spouse’s assets (the same as straight married couples).
  • Finally,  from the human perspective, the surviving spouse of a legally married same-sex couple now has, barring extenuating circumstances, sole authority in all matters pertaining to the disposition of their spouse’s remains in Pennsylvania – prior to this ruling, a same-sex spouse couldn’t even be named on a death certificate.
  • Chapter 2 discusses the benefits of marriage as it relates to IRA’s and retirement plans.  Indeed, the benefits are so significant that from the federal perspective, including both income taxes and estate taxes, I recommend that all committed same-sex couples consider the financial advantages of getting married.  (Please reread that chapter if you are on the fence about it.)  But now, there is no need to travel to another state to marry to receive the same favorable federal tax treatment that the survivor of a straight married couple would receive on their deceased spouse’s IRA or retirement plan.  Now if you marry in Pennsylvania, you will assure your surviving spouse of a much better standard of living in his or her retirement than if you had not married. 
  • Pennsylvania does not currently tax retirement income, so the change in the law will have no effect on your state income taxes.  There will be a significant change with respect to state inheritance taxes, though – an individual who inherited a retirement plan from a legally married same-sex spouse, used to have to pay the state’s highest inheritance tax rate of 15%.  In many cases, this amounted to a significant amount of money. Now, that same individual will pay nothing in state inheritance tax. 
  • Chapters 1 and 3 both show, if you are a Pennsylvania resident, the monthly benefit that you would have been eligible for from Social Security, was “in question.”  This was because, unlike the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration recognizes same-sex marriages in states that recognize same-sex marriages.  If you are legally married, but do not live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, you are not currently eligible for spousal Social Security benefits.  The Social Security Administration recognized the inconsistency in their position and encouraged same-sex couples in all states to apply, but asked you to be patient as they develop and begin to implement new policies on this subject.  Well, legally married same-sex couples who live in Pennsylvania don’t need to wait any longer – they can now receive Social Security benefits based on their own earnings record, or the earnings record of their spouse if it is higher.  Remember, though, that the decision about when and how to apply for Social Security benefits can have a far greater impact on your financial security than what the staff at your local Social Security office might lead you to believe. Decisions about timing Social Security benefits should not be done without first talking to a trusted advisor.
  • In the same context, please have a second look at the graph on page 80, which illustrates what happens if Dr. Dan had used the “Apply and Suspend” technique for his Social Security benefits, and subsequently died.  This graph takes in to consideration a 15% inheritance tax assessed on Dr. Dan’s retirement plan.    Since Pennsylvania now recognizes same-sex marriage, this tax will no longer be assessed at his death, which would make the difference between those two scenarios even more dramatic.

You should also have a look at the graph on Page 131, which illustrates the difference between taking my advice and ignoring it.  The steep decline in assets at Baker Bob’s age 80 was due to the 15% Pennsylvania inheritance tax he owed on Dr. Dan’s estate.  Now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriage and the inheritance tax no longer applies to the surviving spouse, the argument for marriage will be even stronger.

It has been a long time coming, but I am happy to see that Pennsylvania has finally made this change to their law.  Same-sex Pennsylvania couples who marry will finally be treated fairly, with the same dignity and respect as straight married couples.  Since this represents new territory for you, I encourage you to talk with a trusted advisor about the specifics of your own situation, so that you fully understand how these changes will affect you and your partner or possibly your spouse.

 

Married vs. Unmarried for Retirement Years

Introduction

There were two identically situated same-sex couples: they had the same amount of money, invested identically, and spent identically too.  There was only one big difference: the first couple did not read Retire Secure! For Same-Sex Couples and plan for their future using our advice, but the second couple did.


The first couple’s plan:

  1. don’t get married
  2. take Social Security at age 62
  3. don’t make Roth IRA conversions
  4. don’t use our IRA and estate planning strategies (they can’t without marrying)

The second couple’s plan

  1. get married (in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage)*
  2. use the “Apply and Suspend” strategy at age 66 for Social Security
  3. make a series of Roth IRA conversions
  4. use our recommended IRA and estate planning strategies for married couples

Here is the difference in their future finances using reasonable assumptions.**

 

Image1

 

Using the proactive strategies explained in this book, our legally married same-sex couple (the blue line) enjoys a comfortable retirement, and still has $1,427,275 at age 90. The unmarried same-sex couple, who didn’t take our advice, runs out of money at age 90.
 

There are fantastic opportunities for same-sex couples to increase their wealth, cut their taxes, and dramatically increase their financial security and the financial security of their surviving spouse/partner. These opportunities are only available because of the new laws on same-sex marriage that were passed in 2013. This is new territory for same-sex couples—finally, you can take advantage of some of the same long-term planning strategies that have always been available to straight couples.  But, this also means that you can now make the same mistakes that straight couples frequently make, and some of those mistakes could have disastrous consequences for your surviving partner/spouse.
 

Retire Secure! For Same-Sex Couples – James Lange, (pages 9-11) www.outestateplanning.com/contact-us 412-521-2732

 

 

Whitewood vs. Wolf – Historic Victory for Civil Rights in Pennsylvania

Same-Sex Marriage, Pennsylvania Law, James Lange, Lange Financial Group, LLCWhitewood vs. Wolf represents an historic victory for civil rights in Pennsylvania. Now Pennsylvania same-sex couples can get married in Pennsylvania and not only enjoy all the traditional benefits of marriage, but also the financial benefits of marriage.

Windsor gave all same-sex married couples the unlimited marital deduction for federal estate tax purposes. Revenue Ruling 2013-17 gave all same-sex couples equal income tax treatment. Whitewood gives PA same-sex couples the right to marry in PA and have their out-of-state legal marriage recognized in PA.

From an economic standpoint, social security spousal benefits which can easily be hundreds of thousands of dollars over time, is a new economic right for same-sex married couples. Marital equality is economic justice.

– James Lange
CPA / Attorney

LGBT Workshop Coming Up!

“Jim Lange provides a comprehensive road map to all the new retirement and estate planning strategies that were not previously available to same-sex couples.” — Ed Slott, America’s IRA Expert

Writing about Jim’s new book, Retire Secure! for Same-Sex Couples

The defeat of DOMA opens new doors and new avenues for same-sex couples to cut taxes and increase wealth. Take advantage of significant new opportunities in tax planning, maximizing Social Security benefits, Roth IRA Conversions, and advanced strategies for your IRAs and retirement plans, wills, trusts, and estate plans.

 

Our strategies offer you flexibility and smart planning that can save you and your family hundreds of thousands of dollars. New opportunities and new pitfalls abound in the shifting legal landscape of marriage equality.

Recent rulings have dramatically changed the financial, tax, and retirement and estate planning landscape for many PA same-sex couples. However, families are not taking action on strategies that can benefit PA same-sex couples. One big reason: there is a good chance you are not aware of them!

Many PA same-sex couples toy with the idea of getting married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages—but now there are life-changing financial reasons to tie-the-knot and return to live in Pennsylvania. Getting married and combining new strategies (only available to married couples) with old concepts like maximizing Social Security benefits and calculated Roth IRA conversions can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional income over the long term. Furthermore, there are new opportunities in estate planning, trusts (including total return trusts), and other strategies. Add in low-cost index funds to increase safety, increase returns and reduce investment expenses, and other innovative strategies, and you have an arsenal at your fingertips to substantially increase your wealth and financial security.

This workshop will open the doors to savvy planning for same-sex couples.

Our firm has been creating opportunities for non-traditional couples and families for over a decade, but now we have the tools to really save same-sex couples a lot of money. We can help same-sex couples construct retirement and estate plans that will put them on a par with non-gay couples who know the best strategies.

Attend one or all three of the FREE Workshops–presented by CPA and attorney James Lange – described below. You’ll discover how to control your wealth, legally reduce taxes, avoid probate, navigate the changing legal landscape, and make sure your family gets the most from what you’ve got.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center

Oakland Room

100 Lytton Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

9:30 – 11:30 am

New Estate Planning Strategies for Same-Sex Couples with IRAs and Retirement Plans and Who Says You Can’t Control From the Grave? How Same-Sex Couples Can Use Trusts to Protect Themselves and Their Families

In this workshop, you will learn about:

  • New strategies for the best way to handle IRAs and retirement plans if you are in a committed same-sex relationship.
  • The total-return trust for same-sex couples—a means to provide an income stream for your partner, but ultimately return at least some funds to your extended biological family (should you want to).
  • Alternatives to the total-return trust when your primary concern is your partner or spouse.
  • Trusts as beneficiaries of your IRA or retirement plans, whether this planning is appropriate for you, and how it can be done.
  • Avoiding probate: Should non-traditional couples plan to avoid probate?
  • Trusts for minors: “Sorry my dear, no Ferrari for you at 21!”
  • Trusts for special-needs heirs.
  • Spendthrift trusts: how to protect challenging adults from themselves and their creditors.

1:00 – 3:00 pm

The Demise of DOMA: New Financial Planning Strategies for Pennsylvania’s Same-Sex Couples

In this workshop, you’ll discover:

  • To tie the knot, or not? What benefits are available to same-sex couples legally married in other states, but living in Pennsylvania? Does it make sense to get married regardless of PA’s current laws?
  • What does the DOMA ruling mean for spousal and survivor Social Security benefits? And how can non-traditional couples take advantage of these new benefits?
  • The synergy of optimizing Social Security benefits with Roth IRA conversions to increase your family’s generational wealth.
  • How to structure your wills, trusts, and retirement planning to work with today’s law, but be flexible enough to adjust to the changing legal status of same-sex marriages.

3:15 – 3:45 pm

What’s a Better Investment Strategy: Active Investing or Investing with Index Funds?

Here’s a statistic that your money manager may not want you to know: 86% of active asset managers underperform the market.* The truth is you’re likely better off with an optimized portfolio of index funds. In this special bonus workshop, we’ll cover:

  • Ideal asset allocation portfolio recommendations for your IRA and retirement plans.
  • The differences between active and passive management.
  • Whether active managers and investors statistically outperform their index benchmarks.
  • Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) index funds, engineered using Nobel Prize winning research.

* 2012 Index Funds Advisors, Inc. “On Personal Finance: Beating Index Funds Takes Rare Luck or Genius” by Jeff Brown.


About Your Instructor, Attorney and CPA James Lange

James Lange Speaking

Attorney/CPA James Lange just finished his 4th book, Retire Secure! for Same-Sex Couples. Though not 100% official, it looks like it will become an AARP book and Evan Wolfson, founder of the Freedom to Marry campaign, will write the foreword. Jim started the first estate planning website for same-sex couples, www.outestateplanning.com, in Pittsburgh in 2002.

With 30 years of retirement and estate planning experience, Lange and his team have drafted more than 1,800 wills and trusts.

Jim is the author of two bestselling books including Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009) endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson, Burton Malkiel, and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again (Morgan James, 2011) endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler. He is the creator of Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan™ and The Roth IRA Institute, and the recently redesigned and improved www.outestateplanning.com.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (30 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Financial Planning, Bottom Line, Kiplinger’s, and many other publications. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser (the peer reviewed journal of the AICPA), the Journal of Retirement Planning, and PA Lawyer Magazine (article on the Demise of DOMA published in January/February 2014 issue).


To reserve your seat for one, or all three, of the FREE workshops, call 412-521-2732 today. Seating is limited. Refreshments will be served.

Partners are encouraged to attend.

Workshop Details

9:30-11:30 am

New Estate Planning Strategies for Same-Sex Couples with IRAs and Retirement Plans and Who Says You Can’t Control From the Grave? How Same-Sex Couples Can Use Trusts to Protect Themselves and Their Families.

The new laws allow for much more favorable treatment of IRAs and retirement plans. This workshop will start with how the new law works and what pro-active steps you can take to protect your partner/spouse and other heirs. We also delve into estate planning and the use of trusts. Of particular interest in same-sex relationships are establishing trusts when the underlying assets are IRAs and retirement plans. We will also cover Total Return Trusts, which allows flexibility in naming beneficiaries and can protect your surviving partner for his or her life. We also present the alternative to a Total Return Trust. Jim will show you the right way to plan to protect your family.

Frequently, special family circumstances make trusts appropriate for your heirs. Minors, spendthrifts, special-needs beneficiaries, and family members with drug or alcohol addiction are often great reasons to draft trusts. We will help you identify the relevant factors in deciding whether a trust is appropriate and, if it is, how to combine the benefits of a trust to get it right.

Should Same-Sex Couples Plan to Avoid Probate?

There are definite pros and cons to avoiding probate. In states like PA that do not recognize same-sex marriage, avoiding probate can save a lot of hassle. Avoiding probate minimizes delays and paperwork and is less expensive for your heirs. The main way to avoid probate is through the use of a revocable or living trust. But simply establishing a trust is not sufficient. It needs to be funded to serve its purpose.

Funding a trust often means transferring certain assets like investments and even your house into the trust. These transfers take time and money. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? It isn’t a slam dunk “yes” every time. Jim Lange will explain these topics and more in this workshop specifically designed with same-sex couples in mind.

1:00-3:00 pm

The Demise of DOMA: New Financial Planning Strategies for Pennsylvania’s Same-Sex Couples

In June of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional and for federal estate tax purposes, a marriage cannot be narrowly defined as solely between a man and a woman. The case was later expanded to include income taxes in a revenue ruling that followed.

In this comprehensive workshop, CPA and estate planning attorney James Lange will help you navigate the shifting legal landscape that exists for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania and other states where marriage equality does not exist. Find out what opportunities now exist with the demise of DOMA and how to use them to your family’s best benefit. Same-sex couples can now benefit from the some of the same strategies that straight couples have used for years.

Jim will guide you through the complexities of flexible estate planning, optimizing spousal and survivor Social Security benefits, Roth IRA conversions, and other tax planning strategies. There are many new and advantageous strategies—all legal and offering something approaching marriage equality—with additional changes on the horizon that will be significant for you and your family.

3:15-3:45 pm

What’s a Better Investment Strategy: Active or Investing with Index Funds?

Active or index? Most people do not tackle this question until after they have amassed a large sum in their retirement accounts or other plans and are beginning to think about retiring or slowing down. However, for those who want to continue to preserve and grow their wealth, this is one of the most important questions each investor must ask. There is a clear trend away from actively managed funds and toward index investing. But if index funds are the right answer, which funds should you hold in your portfolio?

In this information-packed workshop, we present data on what we feel is the best set of index funds on the planet, Dimensional Fund Advisors. They have two Nobel Prize winners on their board of directors. Join us for this brief investment workshop to learn more about index investing and DFA and how they might benefit your family.

PA Same-Sex Couples Seek Marriage Licenses

February 14, 2014 12:13 AM

By Richard Webner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The October 2006 wedding of A.J. and Diane Anderson had all the elements of a typical ceremony — a tuxedo, a gown, a walk down the aisle, family and friends in the audience, an exchange of vows in front of a pastor. When it was over, the couple left the Metropolitan Community Church of Pittsburgh for a honeymoon at a bed and breakfast.

Unlike most weddings, though, it wasn't sealed with a Pennsylvania marriage license. A.J. and Diane, who are lesbians, officially were married in New York in 2012, but their relationship is unrecognized by Pennsylvania.

This morning, the two women and four other same-sex couples will celebrate Valentine's Day by applying for marriage licenses at the City-County Building. They don't expect to leave with licenses, but they hope the event, organized by Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania, or ME4PA, will raise awareness of their campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.

"We're really expecting everyone to get turned down, but the more this stays in the limelight, the more people will understand that there is an inequality," said Tamala Arbaczewski, who will attend with her partner, Colleen.

The couples will indeed be turned down, said Amie Downs, director of the Allegheny County Communications Division. The clerks on duty will tell them they can't receive licenses under state law and will suggest they contact their state representatives, she said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald hoped to attend the event to lend his support but had a scheduling conflict, Ms. Downs said.

The event is part of an effort by gay rights organizations and other groups to make same-sex marriage legal in Pennsylvania.

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging a 1996 state statute that outlawed same-sex marriage on the grounds that it violates the 14th Amendment. The trial, Whitewood v. Wolf, is set to begin in June.

The groups also are advocating for House Bill 1686, which would make same-sex marriage legal. Introduced in October, it was referred to the judiciary committee.

Before Pennsylvania can become the 18th state to legalize same-sex marriage, the gay rights movement must confront a determined opposition. Last year, several state legislators began the latest efforts to pass an amendment to the state Constitution declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman. The amendment, which has 36 sponsors, has been in committee since May.

Melissa Watson, the Allegheny County coordinator for ME4PA, is optimistic about the chances for gay marriage in Pennsylvania.

"If not this year, next year," she said. "I think Pennsylvania is so ready."

Richard Webner: 412-263-4903 or rwebner@post-gazette.com.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/02/14/Same-sex-couples-to-seek-Pennsylvania-marriage-licenses/stories/201402140122#ixzz2tJHGBLUI