Last week, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, ruling the 17-year-old law was unconstitutional. In a very close, 5-4 decision, the majority of justices found that same-sex couples legally married in states allowing the unions should receive federal benefits.
There are 130,000 legally married, same-sex couples who are now positively affected. Having previously been denied federal benefits, these married couples will now be afforded federal benefits.
Additionally, there are veteran’s benefits, tax laws, family medical leave provisions, health benefits, retirement benefits, and estate planning benefits.
The June 26, 2013 ruling is just the beginning. There is considerable confusion and a lot of misinformation about what the Supreme Court’s decision will do for the gay community.
The implementation of the decision and changes will take time, and it is still unclear how far the effects will go. Many same sex couples may still be ineligible to receive federal spousal benefits for now, as a majority of individual states still do not allow same-sex marriage. Only the 12 states and Washington D.C., which allow same-sex marriages, are expected to gain federal benefits. The seven states that grant domestic partnerships and civil unions are up for debate.
We will be watching closely to see how this ruling will take effect. At the moment, even the brightest legal minds in the country are not clear on where this will go, but it is still a good time to review the plans already in place and make sure clients are prepared for whatever comes next.
Julie A. Dialessi-Lafley, Esq.
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