Here’s almost everything you need to know now that DOMA is dead
In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s historic decision to strike down Section Three of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we know that there are many unanswered questions. That’s why 11 national LGBT advocacy organizations have jointly issued a series of factsheets to provide guidance to same-sex couples and their families as they navigate accessing federal rights, benefits and protections.
The “After DOMA: What it Means For You” LGBT Organizations Fact Sheet Series details many of the ways federal agencies accord legal respect to married same-sex couples. The guide includes 14 factsheets on the following topics: Bankruptcy, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Federal Employee Benefits, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Immigration, Medicaid, Medicare, Military Spousal Benefits, Private Employment Benefits, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Taxes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Veteran Spousal Benefits. There’s also a general fact sheet that answers broad questions, you can read it here.
Rea Carey, Task Force executive director states:
Today’s ruling means stronger families and communities across our nation: Millions of same-sex married couples will gain access to all of the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage. These include: health care, Social Security, housing and income security—all key components of the American Dream. However, those legally married same-sex couples (and widows or widowers) who have moved to—or now live in—a state that discriminates against their marriages, may face barriers to their federal marital protections. We will fight to ensure couples have access to vital benefits.
There are more than 1,100 places in federal law where a protection or responsibility is based on marital status. The ruling striking down DOMA will not be effective until 25 days from the decision, but even when effective, federal agencies—large bureaucracies—may need and take some time to change forms, implement procedures, train personnel, and efficiently incorporate same-sex couples into the spousal-based system.
Until same-sex couples can marry in every state in the nation, we know that there will be uncertainty about the extent to which same-sex spouses will receive federal marital-based protections nationwide. For federal programs that assess marital status based on the law of a state that does not respect marriages of same-sex couples, those state laws will likely pose obstacles for legally married couples and surviving spouses in accessing federal protections and responsibilities.
These fact sheets are intended to provide general information regarding major areas of federal marriage-based rights and protections offered by federal agencies. Before making a decision, it is essential that same-sex couples consult an attorney for individualized legal advice. People must make careful decisions when and where to marry, even as advocates work towards equality. The fact sheet series produced together by: American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and OutServe-SLDN.