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July 5, 2013


DOMA Ruling Not All Good News for Same-Sex Couples – More Confusion and Legal Battles to Follow

In our first post about the impacts of the recent Supreme Court decision, United States v. Windsor, in which the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was partially struck as unconstitutional, we discussed the fact that many surviving same-sex spouses may qualify for tax refunds for payments made on their deceased spouse’s estates. But while estate planning same-sex couples will have a field day with this ruling, the federal government’s role in all aspects of a same-sex marriage benefits is from settled.

While a legally married same-sex couple residing in the state they were married or in a state that recognizes their marriage will have few issues, those couples who have, since their marriage, moved to a state that does not recognize their marriage are not out of the clear. This is because many federal benefits are determined based not on where the couple were married, but what state they currently reside in. Therefore, many legal questions still abound and the federal government must work to resolve those issues as best as they can without having to go to court.

While benefits such as student financial aid, estate planning, and even benefits to military members and their now legally recognized spouses will be enhanced to be more or less on par with their heterosexual counterparts, many same-sex couples will also have more burdens than they used to have. Now that they would be considered a legally married couple, many couples will owe more in taxes each year. It remains to be seen whether these conflicts and issues won’t result in more battles in front of the Supreme Court in the future.