Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00

Landmark Same Sex Marriage Rulings

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Two major rulings from the Supreme Court on Tuesday strengthened the movement for same sex marriage equality. One case held that same sex couples were entitled to federal benefits by ruling a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. The Court in the other case declined to hear an appeal from proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which effectively allows same sex marriages here. These rulings create far-reaching changes to same sex couples here in California.

Same sex couples now have access to the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. In California, this means that life will be very different for the more than 18,000 same sex couples married here before the passing of Prop 8. Here and in states that recognize gay marriage, same sex couples will likely be able to file their income tax returns jointly, which could result in lower taxes. Social Security advantages should now be available to a same sex spouse to claim survivor benefits. Taxes may also not have to be paid for same sex couples on healthcare benefits received through one spouse’s employer. Additionally, other benefits ranging from bankruptcy to estate taxes to immigration to military will probably be available.

So when could same sex couples who are seeking marriage enjoy these benefits? That remains to be seen. A Supreme Court ruling usually becomes final in about 25 days, which would be when the state would issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. But the 9th Circuit Court has the power to enjoin all 58 California counties from enforcing the now unconstitutional Prop 8 before this 25-day period. And this is what California Attorney General Kamala Harris is pressuring the 9th Circuit to do. Harris is urging the Circuit Court to end the stay of an injunction on Prop 8 “as quickly as possible.” So same sex marriage licenses could be given out very soon.

Stay tuned in to our blog for more updates and developments on this issue.