Imagine you are enjoying a night out with your spouse or partner, and the unthinkable happens. There’s a terrible accident, and, through no fault of your own, you are injured. Your loved one is killed. While legal action can’t bring your loved one back, perhaps you can at least get help with expenses as a result of the accident. And, most importantly, you can make sure that precautions are taken so the same thing doesn’t happen to another family.
Imagine you try and file the paperwork for a wrongful death suit, and it’s rejected because the state where you are filing is different from the place where you made your relationship official. This is what one Illinois woman is up against. She and her partner tied the knot in a civil union ceremony in Illinois, and Indiana, the state where the fatal accident occurred, does not recognize their partnership.
There’s a lot of debate on whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry or have their relationships recognized through civil unions, and that decision is made at state level. That makes for complications, however, when legal issues involving same-sex couples take place in states with different family laws.
The accident that resulted in the wrongful death lawsuit took place at a state fair in Indiana. The victims were there for a Sugarland performance when the stage collapsed, killing several people and injuring others. If the accident had occurred in Illinois, the pair’s civil union would have allowed for a very clear-cut case. The surviving partner would have no trouble getting to try her wrongful death case.
We live in a small world, and few people live their lives confined to a single state. Same-sex couples who live in civil union states, such as Illinois or New Jersey, need to be prepared for any potential challenges they might face related to their non-traditional union. Civil unions and same-sex marriages are still a family law field that is relatively new and, therefore, complex. That is why it’s crucial for same-sex couples to depend on experienced legal counsel in order to protect their family rights as effectively as possible.
Chicago Tribune: “Stage collapse lawsuit will test rights of civil unions across state lines,” Lolly Bowean, Sep. 27, 2011