Tag Archive: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Mac Fights Gay Marriage in Philadelphia

The September 16th episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” was entitled “Mac Fights Gay Marriage.” This is a comedy set in Philadelpia, PA that depicts the lives of several friends that work together at an Irish bar called “Paddy’s Pub” The characters are: Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito). The humor of this show comes from the ridiculous nature of the characters’ relationships with one another and this episode was no different. This episode centers on the subject of gay marriage and starts out discussing the same sex marriage of 2 men, one named Carmen who had just undergone a transgender surgery to become female. In the episode, Mac tries to convince his friends that same-sex marriage is wrong. However, Mac’s discussion of marriage only gives Frank and Charlie the idea to apply for a “domestic partnership.” Frank and Charlie want to enter into this partnership because they want to have the right to make decisions concerning the other person’s medical care. Specifically, Frank wants Charlie to have the right to decide when to “pull the plug” if he is ever put on life support. The topic of marriage and same-sex unions is meant to be humorous for purposes of this show. However, it does raise serious issues regarding same-sex marriages. In the episode, the marriage between the sexually re-assigned Carmen and the other man may not be legally valid. There is also the issue of whether Frank and Charlie can legally apply for a same-sex domestic partnership.

The issue of whether same-sex couples should be able to marry or enter into domestic partnerships has been controversial over recent years, especially with the development of sexual reassignment surgery. In the 1990s, states began enacting “defense of marriage acts” (DOMAs).The purpose of the DOMAs is to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying and provide that the state will not recognize such marriages performed in other states. The U.S. government has a DOMA that provides for the purpose of federal laws and regulations: “‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Same-sex marriages are prohibited by 23 PA C.S.A. 1704 in the state of Pennsylvania. This episode raises the issue of determining what gender is legally considered for purposes of marriage. The option to have your gender reassigned through surgery exists and courts need decide on whether to consider someone’s new gender for purposes of marriage. Only a small number of state courts have ruled on the validity of a marriage after reassignment surgery. In 2002, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the marriage between a male-to-female transsexual and her husband was invalid, even though she had undergone sex-reassignment many years prior to the marriage. An appellate court in Texas reached the same result, invalidating a marriage between a transsexual woman and her husband on the ground that one’s legal gender is fixed at birth. Since the issue of gender reassignment remains undecided under Pennsylvania law, it cannot be determined whether Carmen should be classified as female or male for purposes of marriage.

In this episode, Frank and Charlie live together and seek to enter into a domestic partnership. These characters are not in a romantic relationship but they want to have legal rights over one another, similar to the rights spouses have in a marriage. The State of Pennsylvania has defined marriage and declared it as a “strong and longstanding public policy of this Commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman.” Under current state law, these two men could not enter into a valid marriage.

However, recent trends in the United States show that the general population is gradually increasing support for the right of same-sex individuals to marry or enter into civil unions. A CBS News poll conducted in August 2010 is proof of this trend.  The poll asked the question: “Which comes closest to your view? Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry. OR, Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry. OR, There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.” The results show that 40% felt gay couples should be allowed to marry, 30% answered yes to civil unions, 25% said they should not be legally recognized, and the remaining 5% said they were unsure. As the percentage rises towards the right of same-sex couples to marry, it is likely that state legislatures will begin to re-evaluate their stance on the issue.

The Gang Debates Gay Marriage – Sort Of….

The Season 6 premiere of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” provides no shortage of modern legal issues. One in particular is an interesting spin on an incendiary modern debate. On the September 16th airing of “Mac Fights Gay Marriage,” the gang’s outspoken supporter of the Catholic Church, Mac (Rob McElhenney), is reunited with an old flame in “Carmen the tranny” (Brittany Daniel). Mac eludes to their previous relationship, in which Mac discovers that the beautiful Carmen is, in reality, a man. Their encounter in the gym is not without conflict, as Mac discovers that not only has Carmen finally completed her sex-change, but that she is also married. Infuriated that he did not get a phone call from Carmen after the operation, Mac sets out to put an end to the marriage. Mac claims that Carmen’s union is a gay marriage, is “against God,” and therefore should not be allowed.

An interesting legal issue in the realm of Family Law is prompted by the seemingly endless insanity perpetuated by “the gang.”  In Pennsylvania, would the marriage between Carmen, a post-op transsexual female, and her husband be legal?  And for the sake of comparison (since this is a civil law jurisdiction), in Louisiana, would Mac be correct in stating that Carmen’s new marriage is not legal?

Pennsylvania law is firm in its stance that same-sex marriages are not allowed, as evidenced by 23 PA C.S.A. 1704. The State isn’t even perfectly clear as to whether a person obtaining a legal sex change may enter into a union with a member of the now-opposite sex.  However, recent developments in PA law have made steps in the direction of this sort of occurrence, as evidenced by the Pennsylvania Legislature’s efforts to allow drivers to change their sex on their driver’s licenses to reflect a sex change operation.

The issue of whether or not a transsexual can marry a member of the same sex is not one easily solved by simply looking at the LA Civil Code, but inferences can be drawn by analyzing similar code articles and revised statutes. In LA, a marriage between members of the same sex is absolutely null. Article 89 of the LA Civil Code states that “persons of the same sex may not contract marriage with each other.” The code is silent on the issue of whether a transsexual may marry someone of the “same” sex. However, LA R.S. 40:62 allows for certain individuals undergoing a sex change operation to change their sex on their birth certificate. This theoretically would allow for Carmen to become a female, have her sex changed on her birth certificate, and then be able to marry a man. But of course, the law is not that easy to use for purposes that LA Courts would consider contrary to the intent of legislation. The statute limits its use to those individuals that can prove that they had some sort of deviation at birth. More specifically, it would allow for people born in a situation where gender is questionable to correct their issues and have new birth certificates created that reflect the changes. In this case, however, Carmen was born indisputably male, thus preventing her from benefitting from the Louisiana law. As much as it pains anyone to say it, Mac was likely right.  

Friends with Benefits – The perks of Domestic Partnership for two “straight dudes” in Philadelphia

The new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premiered Thursday, September 16 with an episode entitled “Mac Fights Gay Marriage.” In this episode, the shameless duo, Charlie Kelly and Frank Reynolds, decided to apply for a domestic partnership. Their idea is to get “gay married” so they can exploit the system for the benefits involved. The legal issues to be explored are 1) whether two straight men can be approved for a domestic partnership; and 2) what the actual benefits of a domestic partnership are.
The City of Philadelphia does have a Domestic Partnership Registry. It appears that there is nothing in the terms of the registration packet that would prevent two straight men from being approved for a domestic partnership. Charlie and Frank live together, and have always agreed to keep each other’s best interests in mind. Charlie and Frank do meet all the requirements as set forth in the packet, with the exception that Frank could be Charlie’s father. (Frank admitted to having sex with Charlie’s mother before Charlie was born in a previous episode, leaving open the possibility that Frank could be Charlie’s long-lost father.) But leaving that possibility out, assuming they could provide three of the verification documents provided below, they could actually be approved.

Here is a reproduction of the relevant portions of the registration packet for a Domestic Partnership:

Life Partnership Verification Statement

We hereby certify that we are members of a “Life Partnership” meeting each of the following requirements for the existence of a “Life Partnership” set forth in Section 9-1106(2) of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance:
1. A long-term committed relationship between two unmarried individuals of the same gender;
2. Both partners are at least 18 years old and competent to contract;
3. Partners are not related to each other by blood in any way, which would prohibit marriage in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;
4. Partners are the sole Life Partner of the other person;
5. Partners have not been member of a different Life Partnership for the past twelve months (unless the prior Life Partnership ended because of the death of the other Life Partner);
6. Partners agree to share the common necessities of life and to be responsible for each others common welfare;
7. Partners share at least one residence with the other Life Partner;
8. Partners agree under penalty of law to notify the Commission on any change in the status of the Life Partnership.

We are submitting with this Verification Statement evidence that we have been interdependent for at least six (6) months prior to the date this Verification Statement is filed, including proof of at least three of the following (check those items for which proof is submitted):
__ Common ownership of real property or a common leasehold interest in property.
— Common ownership of a motor vehicle.
— Driver’s license listing a common address,
__Proof of joint bank accounts or credit accounts.
__ Proof of designation as a beneficiary for life insurance or retirement benefits or beneficiary designation under a partner’s will.
__Assignment of a durable power of attorney or health care power of attorney.

This law does not apply to private employers whose employee benefit plans are governed by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) to provide benefits to Life Partners of employees. However, many private employers voluntarily offer domestic partnership benefits.

The benefits available to domestic partners are only guaranteed to employees of the city of Philadelphia. Since neither Frank or Charlie are employees of the city, they would need approval by their private employer. Frank co-owns Paddy’s Pub with Frank and Dennis. So Frank can extend some benefits to Charlie should they become domestic partners. The benefits that come from domestic partnership in Philadelphia are as follows:

For employees of the City of Philadelphia, registration makes their Life Partners eligible for benefits under the City’s and their union’s various employee benefit plans (i.e. medical coverage, leave, etc.)

City employees may designate their Life Partner or any other person as a
beneficiary of their retirement benefits.

So Frank and Charlie, or any two “straight dudes” for that matter, could be approved for a domestic partnership in Philadelphia provided they meet all the requirements. But it is doubtful that many straight men would agree to share their bank account or vehicle, or commit to any of the other possible requirements besides simply living together just to obtain domestic partnership benefits. Frank and Charlie aren’t just any two straight guys though, and the depths of their moral depravity know no bounds. So Frank and Charlie’s efforts to exploit the system may pay off and Charlie should be able to share in any benefits that Frank receives through Paddy’s Pub, such as medical coverage and the ability to designate your life partner as the beneficiary of your retirement benefits.

Look here, for the entire Life Partnership Registration Packet for the City of Philadelphia.

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