Same-Sex Marriage: An Update
Here's an update on some of what has happened since the Supreme Court issued its decision that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA), which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
In August of 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that same-sex couples who were legally married in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes (Rev. Rul. 2013-17, and associated Frequently Asked Questions). This is true even if the couple resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. In other words, if you legally married an individual of the same gender in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but reside in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, you will be treated as married for federal income tax purposes even though it is possible that you might not be treated as married for state tax purposes. Recognition also applies to same-sex couples legally married in the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory, or a foreign country. Registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, and other formal relationships recognized under state law do not qualify, however.
The Social Security Administration has posted a statement on its website that the agency is working closely with the Department of Justice, and plans to develop and implement policy and processing instructions in the coming weeks and months. Even though there is not yet any clear guidance on benefit eligibility for same-sex married couples, the Social Security website states that the agency is processing some retirement and surviving spouse claims for same-sex couples, and encourages same-sex spouses and those in other legal same-sex relationships to apply for benefits, even if they live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
401(k) plans and other benefit plans
In September of 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration issued Technical Release 2013-04, which states that, in general, the term "spouse" in the legislation and regulations that govern most retirement plans will be deemed to include same-sex marriages. Like the IRS, the DOL recognizes as married those same-sex couples legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage, even if the couple resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
- The U.S. Department of State has announced visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage will be adjudicated in the same way that applications are evaluated for opposite gender spouses. If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for immigration purposes. (Source: www.travel.state.gov, U.S. Visas for Same-Sex Spouses, 12/24/2013)
- The administration announced that it will no longer enforce particular sections of the law governing veterans benefits, effectively allowing benefits to be paid to legally married same-sex couples; however, variations in state law may prevent same-sex married couples from receiving benefits in some situations. (Source: www.eBenefits.va.gov, DOMA and Your Benefits, 1/27/2014)
- All branches of the military have extended spousal and family benefits to same-sex married couples (a valid marriage certificate is required). The Department of Defense, in announcing this policy, also announced that the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in same-sex relationships leave for the purpose of traveling to a jurisdiction where the couple may legally marry. (Source: U.S. Department of Defense, News Release No: 581-13, August 14, 2013)