defense of marriage act

U.S. Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional: What You Need to Know

Hi there,

What an exciting week!  I’m pleased to share the following alert regarding DOMA that my colleagues Lisa Cukier, Christine Fletcher and Peter Zupcofska put together today for clients and friends of our firm.  As we celebrate the fall of DOMA there are still lots of legal issues facing gay and lesbian couples in the states that don’t recognize gay marriage.

Best,

Nancy

U.S. Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional: What You Need to Know

Yesterday in a historic decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by declaring it unconstitutional. In the case, United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples living in the states that recognize their marriage are entitled to receive the same federal benefits as any other married couple in those states.This important ruling has myriad implications and touches upon many areas of law affecting same-sex couples across the country. For example, estate plans for same-sex couples were previously drafted to take advantage of benefits available within the 13 states and the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriage; nevertheless, estate plans had to be drafted around DOMA, which denied … Keep reading

Red equal sign DOMA

Hi there,

Red equal sign DOMAThis 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 … Keep reading

Defense of Marriage Act and Social Security

Hi there,

An important date in the DOMA battle is coming up soon.  On November 30, the Supreme Court will announce whether it will be taking up the matter in its next term.  In light of that, there is considerable discussion of what gay and lesbian married couples should do to maximize their rights should DOMA be struck down.  This week my Burns & Levinson partner, Evelyn Haralampu, has a piece on DOMA and Social Security benefits.  Next week, our colleague Lisa Cukier will share an alternative view on the subject.

Keep reading below.

Best,

Nancy

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed in 1996 under the Clinton administration, denies federal benefits to married, same-sex couples.  Because DOMA does not recognize same-sex marriage, no federal benefits based on marriage (such as Social Security survivor benefits, joint federal income tax filing, etc.) are available to same-sex, married couples.

A number of federal courts have found DOMA unconstitutional.  In February of this year, the Obama administration ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the law.  However, for state law purposes, 32 states do not recognize same-sex marriages.  The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide … Keep reading

Hi there,

Coming up this Thursday is the oral argument before the Federal Court in the GLAD challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

I am someone who is strongly (fervently) in favor of gay marriage.  Single sex adoption has been around for a long time and I had thought that the successful challenge for gay marriage would come when someone argued that the adoptive children of gay parents had a right to have their parents be able to marry. 

The Goodridge Case was to me, a fair and necessary decision AND the only court decision I ever read that made me teary-eyed.  As a practitioner, I have been dealing with the unequal results of the interface between the Federal and State law ever since.  It is clearly a major issue in other states too.

The Commonwealth also has a challenge to DOMA winding its way through the Federal Court system.

I am keeping my fingers crossed!

Best,

Nancy

Update (5.06.10) – Learn more about the DOMA hearing in an article I was quoted in this morning.… Keep reading

Hi there,

According to the New York Times, the highest court in New York will hear arguments on whether or not New York will honor marriages between gay and lesbian couples that are legal elsewhere.

I was taught in law school that the constitution requires states to give "full faith and credit" to the laws of other jurisdictions, such as marriage, adoptions, etc.  The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) complicates the situation, as federal law trumps state law, so states have an argument available if they do not recognize gay marriages which are legal elsewhere, as legitimate.

As usual, Daniel Clement had a very good post on this as well.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there,

Since we learned yesterday that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is filing a law suit against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), speculations have been flying about what this means and what will happen. The lawsuit questions the constitutionality of Section 3 of the law, which defines the word "marriage" as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

Why?
We just celebrated the 5 year anniversary of allowing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Since then, at least 4 other states (Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa) have legalized gay marriage. Even though gay marriage is recognized in these states, it is still not recognized at the federal level.  This causes problems on many levels – taxes and adoption of children to name just two. According to the Boston Globe, “The suit filed in US District Court in Boston claims that the Congress, in enacting the DOMA, ‘overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people.’”

Issues
Gay and lesbian married couples struggle with very different tax treatment as the federal government, the main taxing authority, doesn’t recognize gay marriage due … Keep reading

Hi there,

It is exciting to see the New England states recognizing the fairness of allowing gay folks to marry. It is a huge step and where people can marry they also inevitably will pay taxes and some of them will later divorce.  In these areas much inequity still remains.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) impacts the income tax and divorce tax status of gay couples regardless of whether or not they are legally married.

They cannot file federal income taxes as married filing jointly; when, and if, they divorce any transfers of property between them are taxable events, as they are not for heterosexual couples, and there is no deduction for alimony.

All of these are costly, but still it is terrific to have another state recognize gay marriage.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading