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Collectors might assume from this section of the FDCPA they can communicate with the consumer's same-sex spouse if the consumer resided in a state that recognized samesex marriages. The FDCPA does not define spouse; however, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) explicitly precludes federal recognition of same-sex marriages and also allows states to decide whether to recognize same-sex couples' marriages that occurred in another state.Under DOMA, "marriage'' and "spouse" are defined as follows: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word '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."Thus, under DOMA, a same-sex partner would likely not be considered a "spouse" under federal law. Though no case law exists on this exact point, because the FDCPA is a federal statute, federal courts faced with the question of whether to accept the state or federal definition of spouse or marriage may be inclined to reject the state's definition in favor of the definition under DOMA.
legal compliance By Andrew Pavlik Same-Sex Marriage Issues Federal and state same-sex marriage laws covering collection issues remain unclear I n recent years, a number of states have taken the initiative of recognizing same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships while other states have enacted legislation or One of the more frequent questions on this topic is whether a collector can communicate with a same-sex partner of the consumer if the couple is married in a state that recognizes same-sex consumer in a same-sex marriage. To answer this question, collectors must look to both state and federal law. When examining state law, collectors should look to the state’s law constitutional amendments that marriages. A collector might presume if regarding marriage as well as the debt effectively ban same-sex marriages. a state recognizes same-sex marriages collection laws of the state. Currently, Controversy aside, the legal recognition and the state’s debt collection laws five states allow civil marriage for of the concept of same-sex marriage normally allow communication with a same-sex partners: Connecticut, Iowa, raises new questions for debt collectors consumer’s spouse in a traditional Massachusetts, New Hampshire and who practice in states where such marriage, a collector could also Vermont. marriages are allowed. communicate with the spouse of the In Vermont, for example, the laws regarding civil marriage require the term “spouse” to be construed as gender neutral. Likewise, Vermont’s debt collection laws permit State Laws Regarding Same-Sex Marriages communication with the consumer’s spouse. Thus, under Vermont law, it California: Same-sex marriage banned. However, previous marriages still recognized. would likely be permissible to Connecticut: Allows same-sex marriage. communicate with a consumer’s same- District of Columbia: Same-sex marriages cannot legally be performed but same-sex sex spouse. However, the analysis should not stop here. marriages performed elsewhere are recogn
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