Penny Jeannechild and Gail Shister are going through a breakup with a twist. Twenty-three years ago, the two had a commitment ceremony in Philadelphia, and two years ago they began living separately. In February, Jeannechild filed for divorce in Montgomery County, claiming the couple’s marriage was irretrievably broken. She is seeking equitable distribution of the couple’s marital property, spousal support and alimony, and maintenance of her health insurance coverage.
But as a same-sex couple in a state that once allowed common-law marriage while banning two women from marrying and now allows two women to marry but has abolished common-law marriage, Jeannechild and Shister’s split presents questions that Pennsylvania courts are just beginning to answer. Those questions are among a group of ancillary legal issues forming the next wave of litigation in the push for marriage equality, attorneys said, which did not simply conclude when first the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in the state.
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