Deciding whether or not to marry can be a very personal and emotional matter. And planning a wedding, goodness knows, has myriad practical, interpersonal and emotional aspects. But deciding whether to marry and/or planning a wedding may also have legal implications. For same-sex couples, the legal implications can be complex, unfamiliar or just plain unclear. Never fear, though -- librarians are here to help! Let’s pick apart some of the questions same-sex couples might face as they consider marriage:
Deciding if you want to marry
The opening up of marriage laws is an unequivocal joy for some couples who want to marry. For other individuals and couples, the ability to marry legally raises both questions and concerns.
One great way to navigate this challenge is to learn more about your options. And one option is: not getting married. Unmarried Equality is a California-based civil rights organization which advocates for “equality and fairness for unmarried people, including people who are single, choose not to marry, cannot marry, or live together before marriage.” Their website provides information about and support for a variety of ways to be unmarried, as well as some resources for and about people who consciously choose not to marry.
Actually getting married
Have you decided to marry? In Oregon, the first technical step in getting married is to get a license, from the county in which you will wed. The Multnomah County Division of Assessment, Recording & Taxation issues marriage licenses in Multnomah County, and their website lists all the requirements and fees for getting a marriage license -- and explains the steps you’ll follow once you have your license. The ACLU of Oregon also has a helpful FAQ about getting married in Oregon, which includes a directory of the marriage license offices for all 36 Oregon counties.
Once you have your license, you’ll need to find an officiant -- usually this is a religious leader or judge. Your county clerk or registrar’s office may have a list of judges and other officials who can perform a marriage.
Next, have your ceremony!
Miscellaneous practical matters -- including d-i-v-o-r-c-e
There are a number of practical books about LGBTQ couples and the law including:
- Making It Legal: A Guide to Same-sex Marriage, Domestic Partnerships & Civil Unions, by Frederick C. Hertzwit & Emily Doskow (both attorneys!) is chock full of practical information and advice about the many legal and practical issues that arise for same-sex couples who marry or register their relationships.
- In Before I Do: a Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay and Otherwise, attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz provides some history and context for legal issues specific to LGBTQ couples and families, and provides lots of practical advice.
- A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples, by Frederick Hertz and Lena Gullien, covers practical legal matters around marriage, domestic partnerships, divorce and break-ups, parenting,medical and financial issues, homebuying, estate planning, and more -- including special issues that transgender people may need to consider in family law matters.
If none of these look perfect for your situation, check out one of these other books about LGBTQ couples and the law.
Getting expert legal help
Do you have other specific questions about marriage and its implications for your taxes, child custody, inheritance and the like? If so, you may want to get personal legal advice. Or perhaps you and your spouse have already married or entered into a formal domestic or civil partnership, and you have questions about your status. I’m a librarian and not an attorney, so I can’t give legal advice. But librarians are always happy to help you locate resources!
Here are a couple of great places to start with your specific same-sex marriage legal questions:
The civil rights organization Lambda Legal has a legal help desk (call 1-866-542-8336) which “provides information and assistance regarding discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status.” Lambda Legal's website also includes a section about the changing legal issues around marriage and family law for LGBTQ individuals, couples and families.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights provides legal assistance to people with LGBTQ-related legal questions as well as a small library of resources on specific legal issues.
And, the Oregon State Bar has a lawyer referral service that you can use to help get in touch with a local attorney who works in the right area of law for your specific needs.
Do you have other questions?
Please, ask a librarian anytime for more resources to help with your queer legal research (or really, with your anything research!). Or visit your local county law library for a wider range of legal materials.
Although we are always happy to help you locate resources and give you search tips, it is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law; we may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights.