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California judge permits retroactive approval to same-sex couple’s marriage

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality

Stacey Schuett/Lesly Taboada-Hall
Press Democrat

A decision yesterday by Sonoma County Judge Nancy Case Shaffer will allow Stacey Schuett of Sebastopol, California to access marriage rights as the surviving spouse of her partner, Lesly Taboada-Hall, even though the two wed in the week before the U.S. Supreme Court restored marriage equality to California and Taboada-Hall died before the high court’s ruling.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports:

A Sebastopol woman who married her dying partner a week before the U.S. Supreme Court restored the right of California’s same-sex couples to wed is poised to win legal recognition of their marriage even though it preceded the high court’s landmark ruling.

Stacey Schuett had only one day to be a wife. She already was a widow by the time the California law prohibiting gay and lesbian marriages was struck down June 26.

But a tentative ruling issued Tuesday by Sonoma County Judge Nancy Case Shaffer means Schuett, 52, should soon have full rights as the “surviving spouse” of Lesly Taboada-Hall and as the widowed parent of their two kids. She should thus should be entitled to pension and Social Security benefits for which she would otherwise not be eligible.

“I actually feel giddy,” Schuett said after hearing the news Tuesday. “It’s going to be a great day.”

The ruling, which should be formalized Wednesday morning, comes as the legal landscape continues to shift in favor of expanding rights for gay and lesbian couples around the country.

Schuett’s challenge resembles similar cases in Ohio and New Mexico where judges have ordered recognition of partners as spouses despite those states’ lack of marriage equality rights because of the ill health of one of the partners.

Schuett and Taboada-Hall wed at their Northern California home on June 19, one week before the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case.  In her filing, Schuett argued that she and Taboada-Hall did everything in their power to obtain a legal marriage, but were kept from doing so because of an unconstitutional law.

Yesterday, Illinois Unites for Marriage, a pro-marriage equality organization lobbying for a legislative equal marriage bill in Illinois, posted a video on YouTube that tells the story of Robert Smith and Steven Rynes.  Rynes passed away on September 10; the couple planned to wed when marriage equality came to Illinois.  It will be interesting to see if other couples like Schuett and Taboada-Hall proceed with marriages that are technically illegal and then file court challenges as they wait for legislatures and courts to act.

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