Sunday, December 05, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage by Skype?

A same-sex couple from Texas has been disappointed to learn that its D.C. marriage by Skype, conduced by an official in Washington while the couple remained in its home state, has been rejected by the D.C. Superior Court.

As same-sex marriage is prohibited in Texas, the couple sought to formalize their marriage under District of Columbia law. That jurisdiction, along with Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, permits gay couples to marry.

Same-sex marriages have been recognized throughout Canada since July 20, 2005, and was in effect in most provinces from 2003.

CNN comments on the Texas case, which ultimately is of most interest for its holding that a Skype conference cannot establish a necessary physical presence in a jurisdiction:
But the court said its notice had nothing to do with the gender of the men and everything to do with the location of their ceremony.
Marriage statutes in the District of Columbia (dating back to 1901) requires marriages to be celebrated within the jurisdictional and territorial boundaries of the city," Marie Robertson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Superior Court, wrote CNN in an e-mail. "Both the officiant and the parties to the marriage must be physically present at the ceremony performed in the district."
Though video conferencing allows people to interact in new ways, such technology raises tricky questions about what it means to be present in a legal sense. Describing themselves as "accidental activists," Reed and Walkup now find themselves part of the new legal tangle.
Also see Family Law Prof Blog, which notes this case today.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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