Gay Pennsylvania Man Adopts His Older Partner To Avoid Inheritance Tax

PennA gay couple in Pennsylvania has come up with an unusual way to get around the state's laws restricting marital benefits to a man and a woman: adoption. Facing the financial and emotional insecurities of old age has led John, 65 to adopt his lifelong partner Gregory, 73. ABC News reports:

'If we just live together and Gregory willed me his assets and property and anything else, I would be liable for a 15 percent tax on the value of the estate," said John. "By adoption, that decreases to 4 percent. It's a huge difference.'

Because John's dad is still alive at 95, he could not legally have two fathers. So Gregory, though older, became the adopted son. The Daughin County Court judge who signed their papers was adamant in telling them that the adoption was "forever" and they would never be able to legally marry. 

"It's humorous to me," John said. "But it provided us with some level of comfort that we have protected each other as much as we can."

While the federal DOMA law was struck down last week by the Supreme Court, this did not extend to the 37 states with their own DOMA legislation. In Pennsylvania, state DOMA law restricts marital benefits to a man and a woman, which forces gay couples to engineer creative strategies to ensure protection for each other to make medical decisions and inherit property after one has passed away. 

Let's all hope that cases like this will soon become a relic of the past. 


  1. Steve P says

    Interesting idea. But… aren’t they now subject to incest laws?

    Section 4302 of Pennsylvania law: “A person is guilty of incest, a felony of the second degree, if that person knowingly marries or cohabits or has sexual intercourse with an ancestor or descendant, a brother or sister of the whole or half blood or an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the whole blood. The relationships referred to in this section include blood relationships without regard to legitimacy, and relationship of PARENT AND CHILD BY ADOPTION.”

  2. Bill says

    Furthermore, when and if marriage equality finally comes to PA, they will be precluded from marrying. Adoption cannot be undone. They aren’t the first gay couple to do this but it doesn’t have much to recommend it.

  3. JMC says

    Really.. adoption is forever? It seems like there should be a way to remove a step father’s legal status as your parent in place.

    It sounds like they’re expecting Gregory to die soon, though. Maybe he’s sick?

  4. Lymis says

    I dunno. Could he give the guy up for adoption to someone else, and then marry him?

    I’m assuming they discounted marriage as an option, because they could have popped over to DC or up to New England and gotten married, including, now, federal benefits.

  5. RWG says

    When Justice Kennedy wrote about the importance of equal dignity for all couples, this is what he meant. Shame on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for forcing this situation onto a loving couple.

  6. Maguitac says

    This is common currency in Japan for gay couples. It is how they insure the surviving partner is not thrown out on the streets with nothing but the clothes on his back, because of archaic laws regarding inheritance and bloodlines.

    Everyone understands the whys, so no one questions the “incestuous” part of it.

    Sad when you have to opt to such extremes to protect the one you love, but whatever gives them peace of mind until the extreme right settles down (or preferably wiped out), and Americans could just live peacefully and equally no matter their gender and sexual orientation. We still have a long way to go, no matter the happy events this past week.

  7. Kevin says

    As others have pointed out,our victory last week negates the fact that we are still second class citizens in the majority of states.
    I have a friend who lives on the NY/PA/NJ border and he goes from being married to civil unioned to being single in a short drive.
    It’s absurd. It’s lawsuit time in PA and there is no ban in the state constitution,it’s full speed ahead for one,as that will be the only way to bring marriage equality to PA anytime soon.

  8. Jerry says

    @fireblazes the point isn’t that they’re avoiding paying taxes, but avoiding paying taxes that hetero married couples don’t have to pay. A hetero couple married five minutes has more rights than a gay couple who’ve been living together 40yrs. Don’t be such an idiot.

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