Same sex marriage is now becoming legal in many states. When you and your partner get married in a state that allows same sex marriage, it can be difficult to figure out if another state will recognize your marriage. The ultimate answer is that if another state doesn’t have same sex marriage, they’ll likely not recognize your marriage.

If you’re currently living in a state that allows same sex marriage, we can help answer many of your marriage-related questions.


Some states, such as California and Washington, will recognize your marriage. Generally speaking, if the state you’re moving to accepts same sex marriages, your marriage will be valid.

Currently, there are over 30 states that don’t allow same sex marriage under state law. In these cases, unless new laws are enacted, the state doesn’t have a legal obligation to recognize your marriage. Consequently, this is still a grey area where some states have recognized same sex marriage outside of their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, there are no current laws that are set in stone that provide an answer within every state.

Legal Drawbacks on the Government Level

The federal government does recognize same sex marriages. While this will not help you on a state level, it does complicate things yet make life for same sex partners a little easier. Hypothetically, you will be married in the eyes of the government yet not in the eyes of the state. What does this mean for you?

The federal government will allow you and your partner to take advantage of many government programs, such as:

  • Federal tax benefits
  • Federal employee benefits
  • Immigrations status

These benefits will be granted regardless of where the couple currently resides.

State Level Drawbacks

The right of benefits received becomes complex when looking on the state level. If you aren’t recognized as a married couple by the state, you won’t be eligible for state benefits. So what does this mean? A good example is social security benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) won’t recognize your marriage if the state that you currently reside in doesn’t allow same sex marriage.

If you would be allowed social security benefits under your spouse’s name, these benefits wouldn’t be valid in a state that doesn’t recognize same sex marriages.

Same sex marriages are becoming more widely accepted. It is unclear what the future will hold in regards to couples that have been married in a state that allows same sex marriage and moves to a state that doesn’t allow same sex marriage. If a precedence has been made in the state, it may be possible to have the state recognize your marriage. Otherwise, unless laws change, you won’t be recognized as a married couple on the state level.

If you decide to move back to a state that allows same sex marriage, you should have no issues with your marriage status being valid even after living in a state where same sex marriage isn’t legal.

The last thing you want to do is guess if your marriage is legal or not after moving to another state. Contacting a lawyer is the best option if you have any questions regarding the legality of your marriage within your state.