One of my favorite games these days is playing “Is Peter Married?” It’s fun because it’s tricky: the correct answer at any given moment depends not so much on the actions of Peter, but on his location, and on the status of some laws. At times, the answer cannot be discernible for months.
You see, Peter’s a friend of mine – among my eldest, in fact, a friend from my college days, and among my best friends (which is not an amazing achievement, as I’ve never been a particularly hoarder of friends. Bring me a donut and you can instantly get pretty high on the list.) Peter has indeed gotten married, I was there when he married Rob, during the period when California was willing to marry someone named Peter to someone named Rob. So following the wedding, while they were actually in the state, they were married. But they were only visiting. They live in DC, where there marriage was not recognized. However, they could travel, so if Peter were to drive through Massachusetts, suddenly he’d be married again until he reached the border.
But back in November, Californians voted for “Prop 8”, a state constitutional amendment which may — or may not — dissolve the marriage. The state supreme court is now considering whether that amendment does so, and part of that question will be when the marriages are considered dissolved. Will they be dissolved as of when the court rules, or will the dissolution actually have occurred the day after the election? So when Peter visited California a few weeks ago, even the most expert “Is Peter Married?” player could not have answered the question with confidence.
Now as I said, Peter and Rob live in DC. While there are some legal niceties that have to be completed, DC is on the way to recognizing such marriages performed in other states. Once this change takes effect, while at home, is Peter married? If California dissolves marriages before DC recognizes them, is Peter married? Can California dissolve the marriage of someone who is not in the state? If they make the dissolution retroactive, does it matter that Peter set foot in the state during the period after the election but before the decision?
Think you got it all down? Okay, here’s something to complicate it a bit. The California marriage? That was not Peter’s first time getting hitched. He got DC “domestic partnership” status earlier. Now, DC would not give that status to you if you were married when you got it, which Peter wasn’t. But he has since gotten married, which was not a problem when DC would not recognize that marriage. But if DC will now recognize his marriage, does that wipe out his domestic partnership? Or does his domestic partnership prevent recognition of his marriage? Or is he both married and a domestic partner at once? If so, does that make him a polygamist, even though he is both partnered with and married to Rob?
My pal Peter. He’s the Schroedinger’s Cat of marriage!