Arguably, news that a father and son are set to marry one another is disturbing — on the surface. However, this story is different — it involves a gay couple that used an adoption loophole to add legitimacy to their relationship. In fact, Bill Novak and Norman MacArthur are set to become the first same-sex couple in Pennsylvania to wed, citing a report by a Kansas City Star news report.
Novak, 78, and MacArthur, 76, are relishing in the moment now that they can finally exchange vows as they planned two decades ago. Then, the gay couple was taken by surprise when they moved to a Philadelphia suburb.
— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) May 23, 2015
After being romantically involved for more than 30 years at the time, the two men decided to make their relationship official by getting married. Little did they know, adoption would be the only option — for the moment.
However, they soon learned that the state did not recognize gay marriage, unlike New York, which acknowledged their domestic partnership. Nonetheless, Bill and Norman still wanted to take advantage of benefits given to formal relationships under the law. After talking to an attorney, they hatched the idea to use adoption as a workaround. In short, Novak would adopt MacArthur as his legal son.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) May 22, 2015
For the next 15 years, they would remain father and son. The good news is that family members didn’t frown at the move, as they knew the gay men were merely trying to share estate taxes and have access to the other person’s healthcare benefits. Last year, the couple got the break they needed — Pennsylvania dropped its ban on same-sex unions, according to MacArthur.
“We were told when we started to look into this that hell would freeze over before Pennsylvania allowed same-sex marriage. So doing the adoption was literally the only thing we could do to give legal underpinning to our relationship.”
However, the gay couple was not out of the woods yet — there still remained the matter of adoption. Unlike marriage, which can be dissolved through divorce or annulment, it’s very difficult for a court to vacate the former. Again, Bill Novak and Norman MacArthur enjoyed another break. Judge Gary B. Gilman of Bucks County Orphans’ Court intervened and ruled in their favor. Last week, His Honor vacated the father and son’s adoption to clear the way for them to marry, according to their attorney, Terry Clemons.
“It removes the hurdle for other people who may be in the same position as Bill and Norm.”
After the judge’s order, Norman and Bill applied straight away for a marriage license. It was approved in mere minutes. Attendees in the courtroom erupted in joy over the ruling. MacArthur recalled the moment.
“The courtroom burst into applause. I burst into tears. They were certainly happy tears. After months of investigating ways that we could do this and finally having the decision coming down in our favor, I’m still walking 3 feet above the ground.”
Norman MacArthur and Bill Novak know other gay couples who used adoption to skirt around the law as a means to legitimize their relationships. They hope their case inspires others to take advantage of the new paradigm shift. In the meantime, they look forward to their upcoming nuptials.
[Photo by Rob Stothard / Getty Images]