When considering relocation, all couples have to face important and potentially complex issues. Decisions about work, real estate, living costs, education options, culture changes and distance from loved ones can present significant challenges. When a same-sex couple relocates, there are additional, unique considerations. Same-sex civil union and marriage laws are constantly evolving, but they can be unpredictable. In America, legislation can differ vastly by state. Same-sex couples in some foreign countries are forced to live an extremely discreet existence to protect themselves from harassment, violence and arrest. Homosexuality is still illegal and even punishable by death in parts of the world.
An awareness of these specific issues is essential to help same-sex couples make an informed decision about a domestic or international assignment. A relocation specialist who is well-informed and sensitive to the special needs of same-sex couples can help facilitate a smooth transition.
Legal Considerations of Relocating
Americans in same-sex marriages or civil unions may have strong legal standing in their current state, but the destination state may not acknowledge the same rights. When moving to a state where same-sex marriage or civil partnership is not recognized, couples may encounter a significant loss of benefits. Legal issues surrounding taxes, inheritance, adoption, parenting, insurance and medical decisions can devastate a couple, especially if they were unaware of the changes in status.
Many countries acknowledge civil unions, same-sex marriage, or both, but specific benefits may vary. The legal definition of civil union differs from that of marriage; the laws of the destination state or foreign country will apply.
Some international moves present additional complications. Without legal recognition, a partner may be unable to obtain a visa or sponsorship. Most governments will not qualify unmarried partners as dependents. A company planning to relocate an employee in a same-sex partnership should consult any global immigration partners beforehand. In all cases, a reputable relocation expert is needed to help unravel the many legal questions surrounding the transfer.
Choosing the Appropriate Relocation Professionals
Because same-sex unions are a potentially controversial topic, choosing a relocation specialist who is comfortable with homosexuality is imperative. Professionals who are well-versed in both routine relocation issues and the unique requirements of same-sex partnerships can offer the most positive, supportive and efficient service to their gay and lesbian clients. Conducting a thorough assessment of prospective matches and briefing external service partners ensures that all parties are at ease with the project.
The Impact of Finding a Home
The process of finding a community and home can color a couple’s perception of the new location. A bad experience can lead to doubt and anxiety, and this is especially detrimental to someone who needs to be focused on a new assignment or career. In the case of same-sex partners, a tolerant and accepting community is usually the most desirable. Some large cities are known to be especially welcoming to gays and lesbians, but there are also small, remote or lesser-known communities that are surprisingly accommodating and open.
A qualified relocation specialist can assist in finding the most desirable and safe neighborhoods for same-sex couples. While unforeseen legal and safety issues are beyond anyone’s control, the knowledge, research skills, preparation and diligence of a relocation expert sets the stage for a smooth and positive transition and averts many potential disasters that can befall a same-sex couple during a major move.