Legal Ramifications of Legalization of Same Sex Marriage

With a historic vote by its Legislature late Friday, New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage since Massachusetts led the way, under court order, in 2004.  As the celebrations continued in New York on Saturday for the passage of the same-sex marriage bill many Americans feel as though the tide is changing with regard to this highly publicized  issue.

However amidst all of the hoopla and celebration, we must remain cognizant of what exactly this means for same sex couples, aside from the sentimental aspect there are legitimate legal ramifications. Dr. M. V. Lee Badgett, an economist and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has devoted countless hours to her study of the impact of same-sex legal marriage on same-sex couples. According to Badgett here are some of the challenges which same sex couples in New York can now happily avoid:

  • costs of supporting two households, travel, or emigration out of the U.S. for an American citizen unable to legally marry a non-U.S. citizen
  • higher taxes: unlike a company’s contribution to an employee’s spouse’s health insurance, domestic partner benefits are taxed as additional compensation
  • legal costs associated with obtaining domestic partner documents to gain some of the power of attorney, health care decision-making, and inheritance rights granted through legal marriage
  • higher health costs associated with lack of insurance and preventative care: 20% of same-sex couples have a member who is uninsured compared to 10% of married opposite-sex couples
  • current tax law allows a spouse to inherit an unlimited amount from the deceased without incurring an estate tax but an unmarried partner would have to pay the estate tax on the inheritance from her/his partner
  • same-sex couples are not eligible to file jointly or separately as a married couple and thus cannot take the advantages of lower tax rates when the individual income of the partners differs significantly.

Read more about Badgett’s study here:

Learn more about same sex divorce:  click here

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