DOMA Struck Down!


We applaud the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the Federal law discriminating against same sex married couples. Some  states (like Washington) have now passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, and where those states have granted married status to residents of those states, the Federal government should not be refusing to recognize those marriages.

This makes a difference to same-sex married couples in a number of areas. Under DOMA same-sex married couples could not, for instance, file taxes as “married filing jointly” even though they were in fact married. There are a number of other areas in which Federal law under DOMA has discriminated against same-sex married couple, including bankruptcy laws, benefits for Federal employees, Social Security, Immigration, Military spousal benefits, etc. A good site for getting more in depth information has been put up by the Human Rights Campaign.

What this ruling does NOT do is require states to legalize same-sex marriage. Because many states still have chosen not to do so, there will be many issues that the courts will have to explore with regard to the interaction between the laws of the different states. For example, even if a same-sex couple is married in one state, if they move to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, they will generally be treated as an unmarried couple in that state. It is unclear then whether they would then still be treated as a married couple under Federal law.

It also means that for divorce purposes couple may be treated very differently in different states. It might make a huge difference where same-sex married couples are actually living at the time that they chose to divorce. They could easily find themselves in a situation where their current state does not recognize their marriage and therefore will not grant them a divorce, while they no longer fit the residency requirements for jurisdiction over their marriage (needed in order to grant a divorce) in the state they were originally married in.

If you have questions as to what this means for you, consult with an attorney in your area.