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In re Estate of Cooper

    Brief Fact Summary. William Thomas Cooper lived in a homosexual life partnership with Ernest Chin. Cooper left everything to the petitioner in his will with the exception of certain real estate that constituted over 80% of the entire estate. The Petitioner sought to take an elective share of the estate as Cooper’s surviving spouse.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A state surviving spouse election statute does not apply to homosexual life partners and does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the State Constitution

    Facts. The petitioner and Cooper lived together in a spousal-type situation for approximately four years. The two individuals were of the same sex and shared a common home. Their friends recognized them as spouses and they had a physical relationship. Cooper left all of his assets to the petitioner with the exception of certain real estate that amounted to over 80% of his estate. The Petitioner sought to take an elective share of the estate as Cooper’s surviving spouse.

    Issue. Whether a statue that does not include a homosexual life partner in its definition of a surviving spouse violates the Equal Protection Clause of the State Constitution?

    Held. No. A statute that does not include homosexual life partners in its definition of a surviving spouse is not unconstitutional because according to case law, prohibition of same sex marriages is not a denial of the Equal Protection Clause. Furthermore, homosexual activity is not a fundamental right. . This Court has held that a lesbian parent is not a parent under Domestic Relations law. The absence of an express statutory prohibition against same-sex marriages does not mean the legislature intended to authorize such marriages. The Supreme Court of Minnesota has held that marriage is one that employs that of common usage, a state of union between a man and a woman.

    Discussion. Because the State Constitution did not create a fundamental right to homosexual activity and classifications of marriage as a man and a woman serve a legitimate state interest, the statute excluding homosexuals from the definition of a surviving spouse are is not unconstitutional.


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