This week had two days of arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court. The first case dealt with a challenge to the California law known as Prop. 8, which overturned the California Supreme Court’s allowance of gay marriage.
The second case was of more interest to us here in Massachusetts as it dealt with the potential overturning of DOMA, which is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. Enacted in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, DOMA defines marriage as between a man and a woman. As a result, in those states like Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal (and might I add the world did not end), gays who are married do not have the same federal benefits that heterosexual married couples do. This means that gay married couples cannot file joint federal tax returns, they are denied key benefits in the military, and they lose all sorts of deductions and benefits such as survivor’s rights to Social Security benefits. When gay couples divorce they are taxed on many things at the federal level that heterosexual couples are not taxed on. Additionally, divorcing gays cannot transfer pensions without tax consequences, there can be capital gains on property division and there is no tax deduction available for alimony, to name a few.
Supreme Court watchers and national political pundits looking at legal tea leaves seem to believe that the challenge to DOMA will prevail and it will be overturned. I certainly hope this is so, as it would make both marriage and divorce much more fair for gay couples.