Gay man adopts his older male partner to avoid Pennsylvania inheritance tax
Two Pennsylvania lovers, partners for nearly 45 years, have added a new dimension to their relationship.
They’re father and son.
Dismayed by their state’s inheritance tax rules, which levies a 15% tax on unmarried partners but only 4% on parents and children, the men chose to adopt — each other. Banned by Pennsylvania law to marry, John, 65, legally adopted his partner Gregory, 73, they told ABC News. Though older, Gregory is the “son” because John’s father is still alive.
The men asked ABC use only their first names; Gregory’s name has been changed as well.
"It's humorous to me," John told ABC. "Gregory was a high school and college jock. Today, I am making dough for blueberry crostata and he is golfing. You're going to think of him as the dad, rather than me. … But it provided us with some level of comfort that we have protected each other as much as we can."
Though the Supreme Court struck down this week the Defense of Marriage Act on the federal level, Pennsylvania retains a similar law on the state level. Even if the state were to change its laws, the men, now father and son, would not be allowed to marry - the adoption is for life.
"As tremendous as the victory was at the Supreme Court, it was a victory half-finished," Janson Wu, a lawyer for the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) told ABC.
"There are still over 30 states where couples are denied the ability to protect their families," he said. "What you see with [John and Gregory], unfortunately, is what so many couples are still being forced to do. They think of creative ways to ensure protection for each other to make medical decisions and inherit property after one has passed away."
A Silver Spring, Md. couple, partners for 32 years, did the same thing in 2001, according to a Washington Post article then. Since January 1, gay couples can legally marry in Maryland. Thirteen states allow gay marriage while 35 ban it. Two states have no laws one way or the other.
During the adoption hearing, the men answered questions about their relationship under oath. Rare in that it was an adult adoption, the judge asked John why he wanted to adopt Gregory. John told the truth: “It’s our only legal option to protect ourselves from Pennsylvania’s inheritance taxes.”
"Apparently, it was their first adult adoption and I was having great angst over that. [The town we live in] is in the conservative Bible Belt," John told ABC. "What if the judge says no?"
“Congratulations, it’s a boy,” the judge quipped after he signed the papers.