Hawaii Could Become 14th State for Marriage Equality

Abercrombie Presented State Lawmakers With Bill to Legalize Gay Marriage

Thinking of an exotic destination wedding spot that also makes a perfect honeymoon vacation? Many would think of Hawaii, that lush Garden of Eden state? You may be able to have your gay wedding if Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) calls a special session to consider his draft of a bill that would make his state the 14th to legalize same-sex marriage.

Abercrombie Presented State Lawmakers with Draft of Bill

The governor may wait until October to call a special session. Abercrombie would have to call the session since the House doesn’t have the two-thirds vote necessary to call it . Otherwise, the issue may have to wait until the regular session of the Legislature in January. Of the fifty-one House representatives polled , twenty-seven were in favor, with fifteen opposed. (Twenty-six votes are required for passage).

Senate Support

There is stronger support in the Senate, where there is a strong 20-5 majority. Senate members Sam Slom, a Republican, Mike Gabbard, Ron Kouchi, Donovan Dela Cruz, and President Donna Mercado Kim, are against marriage equality.

The draft of the bill, based on former bill 1369 includes an exemption for religious leaders and organizations that don’t wish to perform ceremonies for gay couples. Said Abercrombie: “ everything that could possibly be worked on has been. So, it’s just a matter now, I think, of taking a look, at what the final wording of the bill might be, and I’ll make a decision very shortly. I’m simply not going to consider a special session if it becomes something that gets dragged out and a recycling of previous history. (The same-sex legislation previously died in a regular session last January).

The governor wants to see what kind of support he receives before he calls a special session. After Abercrombie meets with the majority caucus, he plans on talking with House Republicans who number seven. Republican Representative Cynthia Thielen is the only proponent for same-sex marriage out of the seven.

Risks for Meeting Later
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, the former Finance Chairman under Rep. Calvin Say, the former House Speaker, said he doesn’t like the bill introduced in the Senate last January. He is fearful if the bill is introduced in the regular session in January it will detract from other issues that need to be addressed.
If Abercrombie calls for special session and his bill fails, he’ll be blamed for wasting money and time. It may be harder to try and pass it again.

Others Who Want Decision Now

Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, in the face of Catholic opposition, wrote a letter last week that urges the Legislature to make marriage equality a reality in Hawaii. With DOMA struck down, military benefits being extended to same-sex spouses, and federal taxation of legally married same-sex couples being on par with heterosexual couples, even those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds are taking a second look.
The amendment is facing a federal court challenge. Jackson v. Abercrombie case is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals awaiting briefing and argument by a three-judge panel.

The Great Gay Migration – Suze Orman Urges Gay Couples to Move for Marriage Equality

Love Wins: Respect For Marriage Finds Federal Support – But Which States Are Most Supportive?Love Wins: Respect For Marriage Finds Federal Support – But Which States Are Most Supportive?

“People ask, ‘What’s the big deal about being married,?’ When it comes to insurance, estate benefits, pensions, it’s really important that this happens on the federal level, not just the state level.”

- Suze Orman

Financial consultant, author and CNBC TV personality Suze Orman recently told the press that gay couples should put their money where equality lives—so much so, that they should move to pro marriage equality states.

In March of this year, Orman voiced her opinions on the MSNBC program “Now With Alex Wagner.”She’s concerned about the livelihood of herself and partner Kathy Travis (Orman often affectionately calls her “KT”), and she wants to defend the rights of committed couples everywhere.

Sharing the platform with Congressman Sean Maloney (the first openly gay congressman from New York), Orman broached the topic earnestly, saying: “Here’s the thing…gay people understand very well that when they get married, that is a legal document. And when you get married, that means if you don’t want to stay together anymore, then you are going to have to go through a serious divorce.”

She continued, “I care about every single gay person out there. I care about every single straight person out there that knows somebody who’s gay.”

“Currently I am a resident of Florida … and I would be more than happy to go and move. I have substantial wealth.  I pay substantial taxes… I would be more than happy to move to New York or California if I could get married and be recognized on a federal level, because I want to live in a state that validates me, and I would validate them with my money.”

As a Fort Lauderdale, FL resident, Suze Orman made her comments before Section 3 of the  Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court (thereby no longer preventing the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples). Her words continue to reverberate in the community.

Federal and state agencies still have to be about the business of enforcing the overturned law, trying to standardize what it means in terms of state-to-state protections, and engendering the transition throughout the US in terms of granting benefits and myriad other legal rights for couples.

Activists continue to encourage LGBTQ people to vote with their dollars and embody their feelings through proactively standing a stand. Though Florida has no state income tax, Orman told the press a move could still save her millions of dollars, so she continues to ponder moving to a state that’s more supportive for gay couples, such as California.

“KT is not for that, just so you know,” Orman recently told The Huffington Post. “I really think that it is…important that all of us support states that support us.”

So what’s next for LGBTQ legally married folks? Do we stay in less progressive states and fight for our own benefits where we live, or move to places where we are afforded more legal protections?

 

–Both?

NY State Estate Tax Refunds Due Gay Couples

Cuomo and U.S. Supreme Court Rule So

On July 23, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that same-sex spouses who were forced to pay high New York estates when their partner died can now get refunds from the state if they filed amended estate tax returns.

The refunds are possible because of the June Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Because the Court declared that section unconstitutional, it granted the same rights to gay couples as heterosexual couples in terms of assets and lower tax costs under estate tax laws.

U.S. v. Windsor

The court decision came after Edie Windsor sued the Internal Revenue Service because, in her determined mind, it denied certain rights to same-sex couples that it granted to other wedded couples. Because of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize Edie Windsor’s same-sex legal marriage to Thea Spyer, her partner of forty years, in New York. When Spyer died in 2009, Edie was hit with a bill for $363,000 in federal estate taxes and more than $200,000 in state taxes. She paid the tax and then sued to get it back (U.S. v. Windsor).

The state of New York did recognize Windsor’s marriage. Same-sex marriages, under The Marriage Equality Act, were legal when Spyer died.  Signed into law in June 2011, gay marriage become legalized and a month later the IRS department extended equal rights under the estate tax law to legally married gay couples, even those married in other states before New York legalized gay marriage. However, the state could not extend the rights retroactively because of DOMA.  The Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling changed that issue.  

Happy Ending for Windsor and Countless Others

Windsor now has the same tax breaks as a married taxpayer, and is now due a tax refund from the IRS plus interest because she was forced to pay as a “single” taxpayer. She is hoping to receive a sizable refund from the state as well.

Filing for Refunds

Total amount of taxes that will be refunded?  New York has no estimate.

A claim for refund of an estate tax, in general, must be filed by a taxpayer within three years from the date the original return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid.

The I.R.S. has said “we are reviewing the important June 26 Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.  We will be working with The Department of Treasury and Department of Justice, and we will move swiftly to provide revised guidance in the near future.”

#ProudToLove: Rainbow-Hearted Reflections on YouTube’s First LGBT Pride Celebration

Loving Equality: Making Summer of Love More #ProudToLove

England’s marriage equality law becomes official in a matter of days.  Marriage Equality and DOMA decisions in the United States continue to send a positive beacon of hope to LGBTQ folks everywhere.

“Set those precedents,” the Litigating Angels seem to be telling us, blowing their glittery faery dust around the world.

Okay, sure…“faery dust” is a bit much—but c’mon: this is the queer “Interwebs” we’re talkin’ about!

With the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court (lifting the same-sex marriage ban) and California following suit, the launch of YouTube’s official LGBTQ-themed #ProudToLove channel rides the waves of change that continue to ripple worldwide.

Continuing its yearly site-wide support of gay rights, parent company Google Inc. created YouTube’s #ProudToLove channel http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbpi6ZahtOH6Ep59vnHOZ0KBngOp-XiUP) and video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDm0zsw9vjY) on June 27.

In like fashion, Google relaunched its customary Rainbow Colored search results just in time for the summer of pride.  This yearly Easter Egg that revealed itself when visitors typed  LGBTQ-focused keywords like “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender,” “marriage equality,” LGBT” or “bisexual”  (Google’s rainbow search results have been a tradition since 2008—or eons, in Internet years).

Graced with the soundtrack of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” YouTube’s #ProudToLove video featured military “coming out” confessionals, Ellen DeGeneres, teenaged hero Jonah Mowry, Davey Wavey, Latrice Royale, Chaz Bono & Cher, Dan Savage, George Takei, Barack Obama at the White House LGBT Pride Month Reception, Willam Belli, and several uber-romantic LGBTQ-themed marriage proposals, all culminating in emphatic yeses.

Prominent and renowned LGBTQ advocacy organizations–if they weren’t already

partnered with the campaign–quickly posted #ProudToLove content in solidarity, chiming in with words, images, videos and sentiments of their own.

Other #ProudToLove ripple effects and highlights include:

Detractors have tried to troll this hashtag and idea, finding little success so far.  Such is the beauty of hashtags: creating instantaneous solidarity and community-building becomes easy-to-understand and propagate.

Pride Month’s really happening all summer long.  Isn’t that always the way?  Kudos to all for making Pride newsworthy every single day.

Being #ProudToLove is an international thing—how do you show your pride?  Who or what are you #ProudToLove? Share your thoughts, videos and tweets with us.  Make sure to include the hashtag, so your peeps can find you!

 

Straight Allies Spotlight: Why We Love Chris Kluwe

“Society’s trending towards more equality, and you see that in the locker room.”

- Chris Kluwe (to Larry King, on “Larry King Now” broadcast)

 

Oh, Chris: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

First off, few people can bring themselves to hate him.

As the Oakland Raiders’ American NFL football punter, Chris Kluwe comes off as a fresh-faced, cheery, potty-mouthed and an unabashedly proud “gamer geek.” Kluwe’s spoken up—loudly—about everything from NFL labor disputes to honesty in the media. Now, he’s championing gay rights and marriage equality—and it’s not his first time rocking the mic for LGBTQ inclusivity.

The UCLA alum combines dashing good looks and dorky gamer references (he owns a fantasy gaming store for goodness’ sake), and let’s just say his wife Isabel isn’t the only one who finds him easy on the eyes.

Hm…male model? Athletic cover boy? What? Okay, losing track of the numbers here.

Still, there are so many reasons to adore him.

As articulate as he is awkward, Chris recently appeared on “Larry King Now”  to promote his  book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.”

On the show, he briefly mentioned his personal protest of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and his ever-expanding record of LGBT advocacy, which started hitting its stride last year.

Sharing a viewpoint with Larry King that’s rarely been shared by celebs publicly, Chris went on to express a bittersweet regret about the Prop 8 decision, saying  we could have pressed even harder to get more mileage from the opportunity to make permanent changes.

“I liked the DOMA decision,” said Kluwe, “Because obviously it extended federal benefits to married couples. Not a big fan of the Prop 8 decision, because while it allowed gays to be married in California as soon as they vacate the stay, the problem is, the Supreme Court had a chance to extend those rights across the entire country…whereas they could’ve made a statement.”

“They have a precedent,” he continued. “They have Loving v. Virginia—that says

marriage is a human right. They could’ve extended that out to say, ‘Same sex marriage, that is a human right, and you can’t discriminate against that.’”

Trying to keep realistic, he tied things up by saying, “So now we’ve just got to go to all the other states that—right now—gay marriage is illegal in, and get that passed.”

Earlier this month, in what could have been a media disaster, Kluwe shared a stinging truth (citing ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges) in the following exchange with Conan O’Brien on the “Conan” show:

“Now what about the NFL? Where’s the NFL in all of this?” Conan O’Brien asked.

“They pretty much just left me alone,” Kluwe answered, “As long as you’re not out shooting people…”

Here’s the deal: straight allies often put their foot in their mouths, no matter how good their intentions may be. Chris Kluwe’s using his “big-mouthed” persona to our advantage. You just can’t hate on somebody for that.

Chris Kluwe loves World of Warcraft, loves the game of football, loves to raise consciousness and awareness, and is all about a message of transparency, fairness and equality.

In his “Larry King Now” appearance and his Out of Bounds blog, Kluwe rants on with this through line: if we are not honest with ourselves and protecting our own, our civilization is doomed. He simply won’t back down from the idea, and his new book likely puts that sentiment on full blast.

Well-played Chris Kluwe—and play on.

What’s your take on Chris’ mouthy antics? Do you think he’s trying to co-opt Gay Rights to get attention? Does that matter, either way? Wait…you’re too busy looking at his “Out” magazine cover spread, aren’t you?

Don’t leave us hanging, y’all—what’s the T? Let us know what’s on your mind, and you can holler at your boy Chris Kluwe @ChrisWarcraft on Twitter.

Attorney General in Pa Won’t Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Court


Leaves Job To Republican Governor Tom Corbett

Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania, said on July 11, 2013, that she will not defend the state’s gay marriage ban in court.  Under Pennsylvania law, it’s the Attorney General’s duty to defend the constitutionality of state laws.  But the law also says that the Attorney General may allow lawyers for the Governor’s office or Executive Branch agencies to defend a lawsuit if it’s more efficient or in the state’s best interest.

Kane’s Decision Not To Defend the Ban

I cannot ethically defend the constitutionally of Pennsylvania’s (law banning same-sex marriage) where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” Kane, the first Democrat and woman to be elected to Attorney General, said.

Kane will instead leave the defense to the state’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett who wants to keep the ban that the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to strike down in the federal lawsuit, known as Whitewood v. Corbett. On behalf of twenty-three state residents, the suit was filed on July 9, 2013.  The plaintiffs are ten couples and one widow who lost her same-sex partner after twenty-nine years together, and two children of another such couple.  Collectively, they want the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages or want equal protections granted to straight married couples. This is the first known challenge to the state lawwhich effectively bans same-sex marriage.

Pennsylvania’s History with Gay Marriage

Pennsylvania is the only eastern state that doesn’t allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. The state law defining marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife was passed in the legislature in 1996.  Trends in Pennsylvania show increasing support for same-sex marriage.  A Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,221 registered voters in Pennsylvania found that forty-seven percent favored same-sex marriage.

Comments From Party Chairmen

Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn applauded her ” courageous and firm stand against a law with little merit.”  However, GOP Chairman Rob Gleason vehemently disagrees and attacked Kane, voted into office in 2012,, as “blatantly politicizing the Attorney General’s office.”

Brian Sims’s Testimony

Openly gay State Representative Brian Sims tweeted “ Attorney General Kathleen Kane, if you were a man, I’d marry you.”  He went on to say….”when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the federal DOMA unconstitutional, the decision thrust many states, Pennsylvania included, into the national spotlight.  Kane has decided that continuing to defend the Common’s DOMA has no legal merit.  Kane’s announcement is a step in the right direction to address the legal inequalities impacting LBT Pennsylvanians.  The truth of the matter is, our Commonwealth currently does not have a single LGBT civil right.”

N.J. Civil Unions Are Being Challenged

5726954639_ht47civilUnion_xlarge

6 Couples Sue To Marry

Once upon a time, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont offered civil unions. Now, only New Jersey continues to recognize civil unions because the other three states have legalized same-sex marriage.

Problem with Civil Unions

Although the protections and benefits of a civil union are greater than that of a domestic partnership, they do not provide all the hundreds of protections automatically received by heterosexual marriages.  Like domestic partnerships, civil union couples must take additional legal steps for themselves and their children on such matters as taxation.

Outside the state in which they are granted, civil unions may not be recognized.  It is a problem if, for example, a couple faces a medical emergency while traveling, one partner may not be permitted to make decisions for the other.  Employers do not have to give health insurance for parties in a civil union.

Lambda Legal

Representing supporters of gay marriage, Lambda Legal, urged a judge to “order that New Jersey allow same-sex couples to marry,” according to the state court motion today in Trenton.  Following the success of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 26 that struck down a U.S. law denying federal benefits to same-sex couples, Lambda Legal has litigated the question for a decade.

For many families, the greatest drawback to civil unions is the “separate and unequal” status they convey.  According to the filed motion, “state-sanctioned marriage provides the key to the full array of federal marital benefits.  The discrimination manifest in relegating same-sex couples to civil union establishes the clearest possible violation of the state constitutional guarantee of equal rights and benefits.”

Six same-sex couples argued in state court on July 3rd, that keeping couples in civil unions instead of allowing them to marry violates several constitutional rights and “simply cannot be justified.” The U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26th giving same-sex couples federal benefits in states with legalized gay marriage has many couples feeling cheated by their states’ opposition to gay marriage.

Lawyers’ Arguments

Attorneys Lawrence Lustberg of the Gibbons Law firm and Hayley Gorenberg on behalf of the six couples and their children, in a fifty-three page brief, said “by relegating same-sex couples in New Jersey to civil union, the state denies them equal rights and benefits.”  Relying heavily on the logic and word choices of Supreme Court Justice’s Anthony Kennedy, Lustberg and Gorenberg mention the burden of “the indignity and stigma of civil unions.”

The lawyers have asked Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson to grant them the right to marry immediately following the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor on June 26.

On that day, Jacobson agreed to fast-track the case and scheduled arguments for August 15, 2013. The case is Garden State Equality v. Dow.

Precendents Has Been Established

All three branches of state government have said gay couples should receive the same rights and and privileges as heterosexuals, the lawyers argued.

In 2006, New Jersey passed its civil union law, that says gay couples should receive “all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy, but not calling it “marriage.”

Also in 2006, the N.J. Supreme Court ruled in Lewis vs. Harris that gay couples should receive “all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy.”

In 2011, Garden State Equality and several gay couples sued because they felt the civil union law did not provide equal rights for same-sex couples.

In vetoing a same-sex marriage bill in 2012, Governor Chris Christie said he was “adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples.”

Governor Christie’s Position

After the Windsor ruling, Republican Christie, up for reelection, bashed the Supreme Court and said he would still veto the same-sex marriage bill. New Jersey Democrats said they will hold vote to override Christie’s Veto.

Led by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey Democrats held a press conference on July 2, 2013 to sway Christie.  Sweeney urged Republicans to allow a “conscience vote” on the issue given the Supreme Court’s strikedown of DOMA.

Christie supports a referendum in November with voters deciding whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage.  Says Christie, “ I don’t know why the advocates for same-sex marriage and, more importantly, why the Democratic legislators are so afraid to let the people decide.  If what they are saying is true, this’ll be a layup for them.”

 

 

 

Couples Can Wed Again in California


california-gay-marriage-714000

Proposition 8 Struck Down

What is Prop 8?

Proposition 8 in California is the voter-approved law that limits marriage to one man and one woman that was passed in 2008.  In 2010, Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional by Judge Vaughn Walker because it limited marriage to only opposite couples thereby denying gay and lesbian Californians their basic rights.

Judge Walker’s decision was challenged by a group of citizens who put Prop 8 on the ballot. A federal court ruled that this group did not have legal standing to challenge the law.  Hollingsworth vs. Perry was the case before the Supreme Court.

The justices essentially adopted the rationale of the federal appeals court that found that California could not take away the right to marry that had been granted by the state Supreme Court in 2008, before Proposition 8 passed. The Court ruled that “because the Governor and Attorney General of California – the officials responsible for defending state laws in court- decided not to appeal Judge Walker’s decision. The supporters of Proposition 8 could not appeal that decision on their own because they could not show that allowing same-sex couples to marry would personally affect them in any way.”

This historic ruling on June 26, 2013, restores the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in California. Because of the demise of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, Californians once married can now receive federal benefits equal to those of heterosexual couples.

Time-Line for Same-Sex California Marriages

On June 28, 2013, the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay preventing California from marrying same-sex couples.  California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. issued a statement saying “I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s fifty-eight counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”

Immediate Weddings

Attorney General Kamala Harris, rushed to San Francisco City Hall within minutes of the meeting to marry two of the plantiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier.  Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles married the other two plantiffs in the case Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo.

Many legal experts and advocates had expected the court to wait for an official decision from the Supreme Court –this is normally the procedure.  But Attorney General Harris urged the Circuit Court to act immediately.

Counter Argument

Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has twenty-five days to ask the high court to rehear the case.  The court said that it would not finalize its ruling in the Proposition 8 dispute until after that time had elapsed.

Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the emergency petition from an anti-gay marriage group to halt same-sex weddings in California immediately.  The Ninth Circuit’s June 28, 2013 Order purporting to dissolve the stay allowed weddings to resume two days after the Supreme Court declined to rule on Proposition 8’s constitutionality.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion: “we have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statue when state officials have chosen not to.  We decline to do so for the first time here.”

 

  

 

 

Legally Married Gays Entitled to Federal Benefits

Down With Doma

Yesterday, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States (Scotus) ruled that The Defense of Marriage Act, that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered “the swing vote,” read the majority opinion in language similar to his opinion on historic past “gay rights”  cases of Romer v. Evans in 1996 and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.

In a 5-to-4 decision, he was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito all filed dissenting opinions.

Reasoning Behind Supreme Court’s Decision

Kennedy, a Moderate-Democrat, wrote:  “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.” Or more simply put, by seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute violates the Constitution.

President Barack Obama released a statement saying that” DOMA was discrimination enshrined in law.  It treated loving, committed, gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people.  The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

Benefits Under DOMA

Under DOMA, Social Security, pension and bankruptcy benefits, along with family medical leave protections and other federal provisions totaling 1,000 benefits did not apply to gay and lesbian couples legally married in states that recognize such unions. Without DOMA, 100,000 gay and lesbian couples who are legally married will be able to take advantage of tax breaks, pension rights and other benefits that are available to other married couples.

However, the decision leaves in place another provision in the law that says no state is required to recognize gay marriages performed in any other state. As argumentative as Antonin Scalia may seem, he has a point when he says that the majority decision today will lead to challenges when somebody who’s married, as he puts it, in Albany, then moves to Alabama and wants the rights they had in New York State which has same-sex marriage.  Will they sue the federal court in other states to receive benefits?

37 States Without Legalized Marriage:  What’s Covered with Benefits

With thousands of couples living in states that do not recognize gay marriage they do not know yet whether they will be allowed to file their federal income taxes jointly.  They also don’t know whether they are entitled to a range of marital tax exemptions such as Edie Windsor’s case  (Windsor v. U.S.) that  prompted the ruling.

Benefits NOT Covered in Non-Legalized Gay Marriage States

To determine a couple’s marital status, federal agencies generally defer to the states.  Some agencies are guided by the laws in the state in which a couple now live while others look to those in the state in which the couple were married.

It’s so complex as the Internal Revenue Service as well as the Social Securities Administration defines marriage based on where a couple lives and not on where they married. The Department of Defense and immigration law consider where the couple were married, regardless of where they live. If you live in a state with a ban on marriage, but have been joined in a civil union in that state, you will not receive federal benefits.  A foreigner in a same-sex marriage with a U.S. citizen is entitled to federal benefits and your spouse is allowed to apply for a permanent visa “green card.” If you live in a state with a ban, but visit and get married in a state where it is legal, you will receive some federal benefits which will vary by agency.

Still Penalized If Live in States Without Gay Marriage

It will take a l-ooo-n-g time before hundreds of federal agency provisions affecting benefits for gay couples are reinterpreted or revised across the U.S.  The DOMA ruling, along with the banning of Proposition 8 in California, were welcome baby steps toward equality for gay and lesbian couples.  But until the Supreme Court makes a sweeping decision to legalize marriage as a constitutional right in every state, gays and lesbians living in states without legalized same-sex marriage will not receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples and will continue to feel that their unions are inferior.

Equality Won – Gay Marriage Victories

America took a great stride toward fulfilling its inherent commitment to equality. On June 26th, the United States Supreme Court issued two very important gay rights rulings that nullified the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8. The court found DOMA unconstitutional on equal protection grounds and determined those petitioning the court to sustain Prop 8 did not have “standing” to do so and let the 9th Circuit decision stand.

DOMA being declared unconstitutional, brings to an end a very long fight that finally brings fairness and equity to those same sex couples legally married in that they now are accorded all the federal benefits of marriage that are available to heterosexual couples. The dismissal of Prop 8 by the Supreme Court restores the right to marry in CA, bringing the number of marriage equality states to 12.

While we can bask in the glow of victory momentarily, we must take up the battle tomorrow, as we still have 38 states that do not recognize LGBTQ Americans as equals, and legally discriminate against them due to the constitutional bans on same sex marriage, and are denied access to many rights and privileges straight Americans are entitled to. Our transgender brothers and sisters are also still persecuted and many states deny gay couples adoption rights, hospital visitation rights, and other rights and privileges that straight couples take for granted.  There is much work yet to be done before ALL Americans are equal.

I am confident that the freedom to marry will come to all states in the union. The Supreme Court found DOMA unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, and the court also cited Loving v. Georgia, which essentially means state constitutional bans on same sex marriage would not pass Supreme Court muster either. It is only a matter of time before marriage equality and full and equal access to all the rights and privileges accorded to straight married couples by the federal government are enjoyed by all Americans.

The beacon of freedom and justice shines a bit brighter throughout America after these court rulings. America certainly is a more perfect union because of the court’s historic decisions. The Supreme Court took a monumental step toward protecting the freedoms of gay and lesbian Americans. However, we have a long way to go and we will not relent or become complacent in our efforts to continue to work toward achieving America’s promise of liberty and justice for all for ALL Americans.