Sarah Ellyn Farley and Jennifer Tobits got married in Toronto in 2006. But when Farley succumbed to cancer, Tobit found herself in a battle with Farley’s parents for her partner’s profit-sharing benefits. You see, the proceeds of the profit-sharing plan that Farley enrolled in with her law-firm would normally go to her wife. But Farley’s parents, represented by the anti-gay Thomas More Society, say that the Defense of Marriage Act and Pennsylvania law basically invalidate their union. Furthermore they claim that the beneficiary paperwork listed Ellyn as single and left all that sweet lucre to Farley’s mom and pop. Will yet another gay spouse get screwed over by DOMA and scheming parents or did Sarah truly not want her wife to touch a dime of her money?
The Thomas More Society, representing the parents, responded to Cozen O’Connor’s interpleader action in federal court, stating that federal and state DOMAs forbid the recognition of Tobits as a “spouse” and that the law firm should disburse the profit-sharing plan proceeds to the parents, in accord with the wishes of the deceased.
Thomas More Society attorneys argue that the parents are entitled to the funds because their daughter executed a beneficiary designation form in their favor before her death, and because Farley and Tobits’ “marriage” was invalid under Federal and Pennsylvania law. Under the terms of the profit-sharing plan, the parents would be next in line when there is no spouse, even without a designated beneficiary form from the deceased. Therefore, they are legally entitled to the funds as Farley’s surviving parents on two accounts.
The larger question remains: why would Sarah represent her marital status as “single” and designated her parents as her plan beneficiaries with a wife in tow? Are shenanigans afoot? Did the parents persuade their dying daughter to sign over the dough or did the lesbian spouses have less love between them than meets the eye?
The plot thickens…