In a Supreme Court decision today, the majority opinion struck down an aspect of the Defense of Marriage Act which impacted spouses of same-sex marital partners in the 12 states where same sex marriages are legal. However, the legal battles are not likely to end with the Supreme Court decision, and are likely to pick up steam.
Liz Goodwin, of Yahoo News, detailed the split court decision and the lawsuit which precipitated it.
The decision is a plus for surviving married partners of the same sex who were penalized by existing tax laws, particularly those governing property and financial responsibilities. But it could precipitate a mass migration of gay marital partners to same-sex marriage states because the decision applies only to those jurisdictions.
The ruling mandates the federal government to follow the law of the states in granting equality between same-sex and heterosexual marriage. Gay couples in states which don’t recognize same-sex marriages do not have this advantage and may consider moving to states expanding their financial benefits.
The ruling has interesting implications beyond the issues of inherited property by surviving same-sex marital partners. If the federal government must extend all federal entitlements to same- sex married partners in 12 states, there would be new social security benefit entitlements created by the ruling.
Older same-sex married partnership survivors would be eligible for widow’s or widower’s benefits under the social security survivor benefits entitlement program. Gay survivors in states where gay marriage has not been legalized would not be eligible for such payments.
Young same-sex married persons who adopted children would also be federally eligible for social security benefits as parents of eligible children, but only in gay marriage states.
An uninsured same-sex married partner to an insured social security beneficiary would be eligible for higher spousal benefit payments under their married partner’s benefit record-if living in a gay marriage state.
The overall financial advantages of living in a same-sex marriage state is reason enough for some to move now, rather than wait for changes which may be long in coming. Social Security’s claims adjudicators should be receiving new instructions soon on how to process and pay new claims of same-sex marrieds.
Whether the new federal entitlements are a benefit or a burden for same-sex marriage states remains to be seen. As with the rest of America, the gay population is a mix of wealthy, middling, and poor.