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U.S. Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide

This month, the Supreme Court made a strong ruling in favor of the right to marry. After initially declaring section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional two years ago, the Court has now weighed in on the issue of whether the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection of the laws insofar as states recognizing same-sex marriage, extending these rights to all same-sex couples.

“Equal Dignity”

Specifically, the Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. As written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, “no longer may this liberty be denied,” providing all couples with “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

Although many states had already legalized same-sex marriage through their own legislation, this decision expands it to the 13 states that still ban it. Kennedy also noted the implications this has to families raising children, and the recognition and stability this provides where there was previously uncertainty and potential instability.

New Legal Rights and Benefits

Many Americans will now be eligible for new legal rights—the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. This guarantees the right to spousal benefits (including state-issued, not just federal benefits, in a state that previously had a ban on same-sex marriage), major medical decisions where a partner faces death or disability, child adoption, parental rights as a couple, and others. This effectively (positively) changes estate planning for same-sex couples, who should now account for inheritance, guardianship, property ownership, and other related issues. The Supreme Court’s decision affects all of these issues, including taxation for married couples.

Beyond major life decisions, this also means that employers must offer spousal health-insurance benefits for all couples, not just heterosexual couples, because the term “spouse” has a universal, general definition, without qualification.

That being said, in order to save money, this may lead companies to deny spousal benefits altogether to avoid discrimination suits. The country will also have to keep its eyes on state anti-discrimination protection for gay employees, as company policies changing to extend benefits to same-sex couples may carry unforeseen discrimination issues.

However, many gay rights advocates are hoping that this decision will carry global implications for other nations that still do not recognize same-sex marriage, particularly for countries like the Philippines, where the legal infrastructure is based on the U.S.’s system.

Florida Family Law/LGBT Marriage Attorney

Sandra Bonfiglio is proud to serve LGBT communities and is available to help couples with any aspect of family planning issues, including the implications of the Supreme Court decision and how this affects Florida’s previous recognition of same-sex marriage versus same-sex marriage bans in other states. Contact our office online or call 954-828-9933 so that we can assist you and celebrate your new rights.

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