Before the recent changes affecting the rights of same-sex couples, the legal recognitions available to same-sex couples were limited. One of the avenues followed by estate planning attorneys to allow for some sort of legal recognition to same-sex couples was adoption. Norman MacArthur and Bill Novak are one of the couples who went that route. They have been a couple for over 50 years.
While living in New York, the couple registered as domestic partners in 1994. Upon moving to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, they learned that their domestic partnership would not be honored under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania. In seeking to have a legally recognized relationship, they were advised that their only option was to go through adoption proceedings. So, they did just that. Bill became the legal father to Norman. Bill is two years older than Norman.
In 2014, however, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania decided the case of Whitewood v. Wolf and, thereby, declared the marriage laws of the State of Pennsylvania, the very laws that had prevented the couple from marrying long ago, to be unconstitutional. Soon thereafter, Mr. MacArthur and Mr. Novak sought to formally marry; however, their previous adoption was standing in the way. So, they began legal proceedings to have the adoption vacated. On May 14, 2015, Judge Gary B. Gilman of the Orphans Court of Bucks County, Pennsylvania entered an order vacating their adoption decree and, as a result, allowing them the freedom to marry.
It is the first such case of its kind in Pennsylvania.