California Allows Gay Marriage, but School Doesn’t

Rally and Online Petition for Fired Gay Teacher

A popular English teacher at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, California has been fired not for incompetence, but because news of his same-sex wedding went public.  The teacher, Ken Bencomo, 45, married his partner of 10 years, Christoper Persky, on July 1 in a civil ceremony at San Bernandino City Hall of Records.  They were among the first gay couples to wed after the Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8 in California.

The pictures of the wedding, accompanied an article about marriage equality, were in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on July 1st and created quite a stir with the Catholic private high school’s administration which employed Bencomo.  Just days after the newspaper photos appeared, this head of the English Department, a Rancho Cucamongo resident, was fired because “his marriage violated the Catholic church’s teachings based on Roman Catholic tradition. Gay marriage goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Bencomo vs. St. Lucy’s Priory High School

Bencomo was told on July 12 by the school that his teaching contract for the fall would not be renewed.  Bencomo’s lawyer Patrick McGarrigle contends that the school knew Bencomo was gay for at least ten of the seventeen years he taught as he brought his partner to school functions.  Bencomo may sue the school.

Although the school purports that “it does not discriminate against teachers or other school employees based on their private lifestyle choices, public displays of behavior that are directly contrary to church teachings are inconsistent with these values.”  The Catholic Church does not consider homosexuality a sin per se, but only if you act on it.

Rally Planned for August 4 to Reinstate Teacher

Former St. Lucy’s student Brittany Littleton, describes Bencomo as a “beloved mentor, confidant, and educator.” Littleton, now 23, launched a petition that has garnered 45,000 signatures.  She will deliver the petition at a press conference on August 8th at the school where former and current students as well as faculty will gather to show support for Bencomo in a peaceful rally.

 

Baton Rouge Sheriff Arrests Gay Men in Sting

Claims Innocent on Invalid Anti-Sodomy Laws

City Councilmember John Delgado of Baton Rouge was infuriated when he read on July 28th in a Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper that the local sheriff, Sid Gautreaux had arrested twelve gay men in the last two years on charges that they had violated the state’s law prohibiting homosexual sex. Truth is that with the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court Case in 2003, those anti-sodomy laws were rendered invalid.and unconstitutional yet still remain on the books in Louisiana as well as other states.

Hello, Sid?

The Sheriff says he never got a memo saying that anti-sodomy laws weren’t valid anymore. Duh. Delgado said “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” It seems that Sid ‘s modus operandi of his sting was having his deputy ask men in the park if they wanted to go back to his place for sex.  When the men agree and go to the home, then they are arrested.

Private Consensual Sex: No Criminal Violation

There is no money involved so they are not being arrested for prostitution. The men are being arrested on false grounds as the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the anti-sodomy laws they are using to target the gay population and incarcerate them. Local District Attorney Hillar Moore stated that all the men were released from jail after being booked on the felony charge of attempted charge against nature and that the district attorney’s office did not pursue the charges in any of the cases as there is nothing illegal about what happened.

Delgado, a lawyer, is adamant that” those officers had to have known the law is unconstitutional. I think it’s a policy of harassment that targets a specific segment of the population. ”He is filing public records to determine when the District Attorney’s Office informed the Sheriff’s office that the men had not committed crimes.

Gautreaux’s Defense

On July 28, 2013, the Sheriff’s office issued a statement saying it “has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community.”  It said that the arrests were an attempt to deter or stop lewd activity in a park where children are playing. “Children were not present when the gay men were arrested. On July 29th, the Sheriff nor his office were not available for comment. Hmmm.

However, D.A. Moore told the newspaper that in all twelve cases, the men agreed to have sex away from the park at a private residence.

Appeasing the Wounded

On July 29th, Gautreaux said that he had informed all employees of the Sheriff’s Office that they are not to use these constitutional (outdated) laws. The Sheriff also stated that he would begin discussion on striking the unconstitutional sections of Louisiana’s “Crimes Against Nature” law from the books.

Gautreaux told the Capital City Alliance, a local LGBT advocacy group, that deputies “will no longer be enforcing this law until the courts or the legislature removes it.”  In hindsight, Gautreaux admits that he should have taken a different approach. He insists that the arrests were never to target a certain segment of the population.  “When we receive reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing, we must take these concerns seriously.  Our intent was honorable, our approach, however, is something we must evaluate and change.”

 

 

 

 

1st UN Public Education Campaign Launched

Free and Equal Worldwide Campaign Promotes Equality for LGBT People

The recent surge in anti-gay violence in Africa as well as Russia has sparked the United Nations’s first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for GLBT people around the world.

Launched on July 26, 2013, the campaign called Free and Equal is aimed at changing public attitudes on issues that have divided the member states of the United Nations. Less than half of the U.N. ‘s 193 member states have documented their support of gay rights or opposition to laws criminalizing homosexuality. Yet, today more than seventy-six countries still criminalize consensual sex. In all areas of the world, violence against LGBT persons has been recorded. However, an increasing number of UN member states as well as UN agencies voiced concern about the recent abuses of LGBT rights.

Details About the Effort

The multi-media campaign to alter existing views will use videos, social media, celebrity appearances, a new website, fact sheets, and celebrity announcements. It is being orchestrated by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights that has a mandate to ‘protect and promote all human rights for all human beings’  and is being funded by outside contributors, not the United Nations. To execute the effort, the U.N. will be partnering with The Purpose Foundation that has extensive experience with human rights-related campaigns.

Purpose of the Free and Equal

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, announced the intiative in South Africa, her mother country.  “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights – no exceptions, no-one left behind,” said Pillay. “Yet it’s still a hollow promise for many millions of LGBT people forced to confront hatred, intolerance, violence, and discrimination on a daily basis.”

Recent Attacks

In the past few weeks, a gay activist in Cameroon was tortured and murdered. Uganda has a “kill the gays” bill, Montenegro’s first pride celebration met with violence, and Putin in Russia approved an anti-gay crackdown that will impose hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors.  And those are just the highlights!

Dignitaries Back Effort

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leader of the end- the- apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1980s, states that “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven…I am as passionate about this (Free and Equal) campaign as I ever was about apartheid.  For me, it is at the same level.”

Former South African President Nelson Mandela said that ” education is the best weapon against prejudice.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared “Let me say this loud and clear: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else.  They too are born free and equal.  I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their struggle for human rights.”

 

 

 

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.”

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.”

Cherry Grove Theater Gains Historic Landmark Status

Located on Fire Island’s Gay Sanctuary

Cherry Grove’s Community House and Theatre were recently named to the National Register of Historic Places for “the enormous role it played in shaping what gradually evolved into America’s “First Gay and Lesbian Town.” Recognized by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service for historical designation,” it follows New York’s Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 gay uprising that spawned the Gay Rights Movement and gay rights activist Dr. Franklin E. Kameny’s home in Washington, D.C.

History of The Theatre

The theatre was cited for being the oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian theatre in the United States.  Located in the hamlet of Cherry Grove, one of about seventeen hamlets and villages on the 30-mile long barrier island five miles off the southern shore of Long Island, the building was actually floated across Long Island’s Great South Bay to serve as the community house for the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association, Inc., which organized in 1944 to serve Cherry Grove’s civic needs.  In 1948, the theatre wing was constructed.

According to The NPS listing, “this integration of homosexual residents into daily life and events at its community house afforded Cherry Grove a singular status; it became the one of the first and, for many years, the only gay and lesbian influenced geography in the United States.” Cherry Grove’s neighbor The Pines is also popular with the gay community.

Hoping to get Funding for Theatre

Residents want funding for the 151-seat barn structure.  Over the years, famous gay artists such as Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, W.H. Auden have walked across its floorboards. The walls of the theater’s basement dressing room feature autographs of many of the performers or their initials, if afraid to be out publicly.

Why Cherry Grove Has Survived

Cherry Grove has survived because of its location, location, location. No cars are permitted in Cherry Grove or nearby The Pines.  It has two miles of white, sandy beaches facing the Atlantic and are accessible by narrow boardwalks.  About sixty miles east of Manhattan, it can be reached by a 20 –minute ferry ride that goes across Great South Bay to the gay-friendly resort. Because the barrier island is so isolated from the mainland, gays were generally left alone since the 1940’s with the exception of few-and-far-between raids.

The disastrous 1938 hurricane nearly obliterated Cherry Grove.  Desperate for cash, landlords and business, after the Depression and WW II, overlooked their tenants’ sexual orientation in order to fill largely rental properties.  It became a safe haven for gays in which they were weren’t harassed.

“ A Gay and Lesbian Mayberry RFD” – 7 Year Visitor

President of the Cherry Grove Community Association, Diane Romano, says “ We remember when we could be arrested just for being gay.  To now be applauded and to be allowed to marry and to be recognized by the government for being a gay theater for so many years is just thrilling.”

 
 

Couples Can Wed Again in California


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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.”

 

  

 

 

The Little Engine Who Could: Edie Windsor

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The Woman Who Sued the United States and Won!

“I think I can, I think I can” must have been Windsor’s motto as she led an uphill battle that lasted five years, and culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal law DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that regarded marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.  But in terms of her strength,  Edie Windsor’s  impact on gay rights in the U.S. was  (like Superman) “as strong as a locomotive.”

Auspicious Beginnings

Edith Schlain was born eighty-four years ago in Philadelphia.  She briefly married a man, divorced , and moved to New York City “to be gay.” A math and computer whiz, Edie worked at I.B.M.., one of the few women at the heart of the revolution in programming.  She was closeted at that time, but did ask a friend “if you know where the lesbians go, please take me.”

The First Meeting

On Friday evenings, Portofino in the West Village was a hangout for gay women.  It was here that she met Thea Spyer, a wealthy Jewish emigre from Holland, who was a psychologist and violinist in 1963.  Four years later, they began what turned out to be “ a very long engagement”( the title of a documentary about Edie and Thea).

Sickness Enters Equation

In 1977, Spyer was found to have multiple sclerosis.  Edie quit her job to care for Spyer.  At that time, Edie became a gay activist, financial donor, and was drafted to design and manage computer systems for gay groups.

Because of the severity of Spyer’s illness, Edith and Thea went to Toronto to wed in May 2007 ( New York did not have legalized gay married until 2011).  Thea died on February 5, 2009. They were a couple for forty-four years!

Edith Taxed Unfairly

Because the federal government did not recognize the couple’s marriage, Edie could not receive federal benefits, according to DOMA. She was saddled with $363,053 in federal estate taxes and more than $600,000 overall because the government did not recognize her as Spyer’s spouse who could inherit the modest cottage in the Hamptons and couple’s Fifth Avenue apartment, tax free.

Windsor sued the federal government Windsor v. United States for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner after Spyer’s death in 2009.  In her lawsuit, Windsor argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as strangers.

Challenging Laws:  Through The Maze of Courts

Windsor’s lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP,, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In October 2012, in a 2 to -1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled in her favor: that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples.

On December 7, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that the justices would be hearing Windsor’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act as well as a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment. 

During this past March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard gay marriage arguments. On Wednesday, June 26, they finally came to a conclusion.

Supreme Court Delivers Victory to Windsor

In a 5-to-4 ruling, U.S. Supreme Court justices, with Anthony Kennedy as the “swing vote,” said that DOMA is unconstitutional because it is deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.  Same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same as married opposite-sex couples and be entitled to benefits including income taxes, social security benefits and over a thousand other federal laws and programs – same as heterosexual couples. (See Gay Agenda’s Post “Supreme Court Delivers Gay Marriage Victory,” Gay Agenda, 26/6/13.)

Edie never lost sight of what was fair not only for herself, but for other gay couples who have been denied their benefits in states where same-sex marriage is legal.  Because of this hero’s tenacity, a bill known as the Respect for Marriage Act is working its way through Congress to supplant DOMA.

 

  

 

Obama Gives Hope for Gay African Community

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South Africa might be progressive and pretty in pink, offering a great gay tourist destination and gay marriage for everyone, but it’s only the rainbow tip in the largely homophobic African subcontinent.

Amnesty International released a report this week titled “Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa”  which detailed facts and human rights abuses against LGBT individuals within the sovereign countries.

Of its various findings, it notes that 38 countries consider homosexuality illegal. Four of them—Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria, and southern Somalia—offer the death penalty for those found guilty of “homosexuality,” and five more—Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, and Nigeria—have all attempted to further criminalize homosexuality within their countries. Open discrimination within these countries has resulted in difficulty obtaining or outright refusal of medical treatment, and such things as “corrective” rape occur to try to “cure” lesbians and queer women into becoming heterosexual. Other sexual violence, like forced anal exams, and targeted killings happen throughout the region, making the situation for LGBT individuals rather dire and extreme.

For all of these reasons, and because of his vocal support of the LGBT community, President Obama is expected to make a statement of some kind against these practices while on his African tour later this week and next. The primary reasons for the trip are to promote democracy and U.S. businesses (competing with China for markets), and to discuss subjects of development with several African leaders. He will be visiting Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania during his unusually long (for a U.S. president) international tour, and be back in the U.S. for Independence Day.

It seems almost a given that the president will make some kind of comment. In foreign affairs, back in 2011 he asked individuals in the State Department “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of” gays, lesbians and transgender people. His second inaugural address indicated a full-fledged support for gay marriage. And just last week he called on Congress to draft a bill outlawing workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The situation is quite sensitive: President Obama seems to be in a position to make a political statement that would affect American relations in the Sub-Saharan region, and he will have to choose the timing and the nature of his comments carefully if he does make them. Africa is a dynamic continent, and we could see a changing landscape, albeit slowly, with strong positive LGBT sentiments from its leaders.

To end on a slightly more positive note, Amnesty’s report also mentions a few uplifting points in its report. Mentioned before, South Africa allows same-sex marriage and joint adoption, and Cape Verde, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Seychelles have all decriminalized homosexuality. Several countries also have a history of homosexual marriages and art, which while current leaders tend to see as incorrect and “un-African,” some are starting to see these things in a more accepting light.

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.