The US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) definition of marriage (for federal benefit purposes) as only between a man and a woman will certainly create some changes. Unfortunately it’s not easy to figure out exactly what this means for each of us. There have been many articles published with strong opinions on whether the decision was good or bad, but there is not enough good information out there yet regarding how the decision affects businesses and individuals.
In short, for federal benefits to be extended to a same sex partner, you must reside in a state that recognizes same sex marriage as legal, and you must have been married in that state. The federal government has not said that same sex marriage is legal, that is still a decision made by each state. The decision simply means that federal benefits will be extended to those in LEGAL same sex marriages.
Many of the articles published to this point are still pretty vague. Most have written that “most” federal benefits will be honored, but there is no list yet of which benefits are covered. Even the Social Security Administration hasn’t published specifics. SSA has asked anyone who believes they are now entitled to benefits to submit an application for review, but has not guaranteed social security benefits to spouses in same sex marriage.
It appears there are still more questions than answers. There will certainly be more benefits available to same sex partners, including some tax breaks, and survivor benefits, but it will take some time before clear answers are available for everyone.
For Massachusetts residents and business owners, here is a link to a Mass.gov FAQ site with some answers.
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