The Supreme Court's decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act means same-sex married couples in states where gay marriage is legal are now eligible for more than 1,000 federal benefits previously available only to husbands and wives.
The decision has implications for health insurance, death benefits, gift and estate taxes, social security, retirement and more.
1. Death Benefits — If a spouse in a same-sex marriage dies, the surviving partner can now roll over the funds in his or her spouse’s qualified retirement account into an IRA. Before the decision, the surviving partner had to take the money out of the spouse’s account at the time of death, often incurring penalties for taking the money out early, according to Virginia McGarrity, attorney with the firm Robinson and Cole.
2. Health Care — DOMA prevented same-sex married couples from receiving a variety of health care benefits. Same-sex spouses will now be eligible for COBRA health care coverage and HIPAA privacy protections said McGarrity. In addition, healthcare benefits for an employee's same-sex spouse are no longer taxable. That could save some couples $1,500 to $2,000 a year, according to Tina Salandra, a CPA with Numerical LLC.
3. Gift and Estate Taxes — A spouse in a gay marriage will no longer have to pay a gift tax when giving assets, support, cash and/or property over $14,000 a year to his or her spouse. Now a same-sex partner can put his or her spouse on the title of a home, car, stock brokerage account, or 401(k) without triggering gift or estate taxes, according to Tina Salandra.
4. Social Security — If a spouse in a same-sex marriage dies, the surviving spouse will be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits.
5. Veterans Benefits — Surviving spouses will also be eligible for veterans pension benefits. In addition, married same-sex couples will be able to be buried together in veterans' cemeteries, according to the opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
6. Dangerous Jobs — Workers in certain industries, like mining and public safety, are eligible for special benefits. According to a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, the spouse of a coal miner who dies of black lung disease or of a public safety officer killed in the line of duty are eligible for benefits. Now, surviving spouses in same-sex marriages would also be eligible.
7. Copyright Laws — The same GAO report also points out that widows or widowers of the creator of a copyrighted work are given renewal or termination rights in some circumstances under the Copyright Act. This will now apply to surviving partners in a same-sex union.