What LGBT Americans can expect from a Trump administration and the realities of marriage equality were topics of a lecture presented by Our Fund Thursday evening in Fort Lauderdale.
“You must support civil society organizations like Our Fund,” said Robert W. Kuhn, a board member of Lambda Legal. “Because your government has left you behind.”
It was an ominous opening to the lecture held at Josephine S. Leiser Opera Center. Speaking on behalf of Lambda Legal was Christopher Clark, National Pro Bono Director, who attempted to ease fears that a change in Washington would negatively affect same-sex marriages.
“We are not at this point alarmed that that right is going to be rolled back by the Supreme Court,” said Clark.
Clark said public opinion now favors marriage rights for all thus making it harder for the high court to flip on its historic Obergefell vs. Hodges decision of 2015. Along with marriage rights come nearly 1,000 other federal rights and protections for same-sex couples from immigration sponsorship to social security survivor benefits.
Aside from marriage, however, other rights could be eroded, Clark said. He called Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch “dangerous to the LGBT community.”
Rae Chorowski, a South Florida attorney, joined Clark on the lecture panel. Chorowski explained what she called the “nuts and bolts” of marriage from emotional, financial and personal standpoints. Her part of the lecture veered into new ground for LGBT Americans as the topic of divorce was broached.
“It’s been really interesting for me on a professional level because I’ve had so many gay and lesbian clients come to me now for a divorce,” Chorowski said. “Some of these couples have been together for many years before they were married and a year or two into their marriage and they’re getting divorced. It’s fascinating to me and really a psychological issue more than a legal one.”
Chorowski said a mistake married couples make is not entering into a pre-nuptial agreement due to romantic reasons.
“I have actually witnessed the blood drain from somebody’s face when I explain to them the implications and ramifications of what this marriage may cost this person,” Chorowski said.
Family law in Florida, Chorowski said, is based on five different areas – Equitable distribution, alimony, custody of children, child support and attorney fees. Equitable distribution is most impactful in the LGBT community, Chorowski said.
“Title is not relevant anymore once you’re married,” Chorowski said.
Previously when same-sex couples owned a home together and broke up, the home stayed in the ownership of the title holder. With married couples, the home falls under equitable distribution. All assets accumulated by a couple from the time they were married to the time they divorce are to be divided equally, Chorowski said.
“The days of packing your shit and leaving are over,” she added.
A pre-nuptial agreement, Chorowski said, solves many problems during a divorce. In many cases, a forensic accountant is required to determine enhanced assets. Enhanced assets are assets that existed before the marriage began and have gained substantial value since.
“Nobody likes them and nobody wants to enter into them because it’s not romantic, but it really does help clarify a lot of issues,” Chorowski said of pre-nuptial agreements.