The future looked bright in the spring of last year at One Bush Street in San Francisco, home to BVH Law Group. Deb Kinney and her three partners discussed hiring staff to help buttress their expanding estate-planning practice: managing the wealth of gay and lesbian individuals and their families.

That niche afforded plenty of work — thanks to continual updates to California’s domestic partnership statutes. The state’s domestic partnership act, passed in 2003, for the first time treated gay families as having the same rights and obligations as straight families. This equality hasn’t extended to the federal level, creating a complex and uncertain framework that demands skilled legal advice.

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