Benefits For Same-Sex Couples Under DOMA

The ruling earlier this summer that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional opened many doors for same-sex couples. The overturning of the legislation marks a huge victory for the gay and lesbian community in the United States and now allows same-sex couples to reap more than 1,000 marriage-related benefits that used to be reserved for their heterosexual counterparts. Some of the most important benefits that newly included couples should be aware of include:

Sponsoring A Partner For A Green Card Or Visa 
According to NBC News, there are about 28,500 same-sex couples in which one partner is a U.S. citizen and one is not who can benefit from same-sex immigration rights. The U.S. citizens in these binational couples will be able to petition for green cards or visas that allow foreign-born partners to legally move to the United States because the government now recognizes their marriages as being legal and valid. For many couples, this part of the legislation will allow them to live in the same country for the first time.

Receiving Tax Perks
Same-sex spouses now qualify for perks offered by the Internal Revenue Service, which include head of household deductions, joint tax returns and tax exemptions. Even in situations where spouses’ salaries push the couple’s income into a higher tax bracket and they may be subjected to the marriage penalty, it is still beneficial to file the returns.

“Despite the possibility of a penalty, joint tax returns generally provide tax relief, and they’re probably one of the biggest benefits that gay couples can now take advantage of (along with the estate tax exemption, which was at the center of the Supreme Court case),” Nick Kasprak, an analyst with the Tax Foundation, wrote in a post for The Tax Policy Blog. “It’s a huge paperwork reduction as well – prior to the ruling, gay couples had to file a joint return at the state level but single returns at the federal level, which made figuring out things like deductibility of state tax from federal AGI and vice versa extraordinarily and needlessly complicated.”

Opening A Spousal IRA
If one spouse is not working, the employed spouse can file a joint tax return and open an individual retirement account for him or her. Spousal IRAs allow the working spouse to add money to the nonworking spouse’s account.

Qualifying For DOD Spousal Benefits
If one spouse in a same-sex marriage is a military veteran, the U.S. Department of Defense will provide spousal benefits to the non-veteran spouse in accordance with the laws in the state where they were married. GLAAD explained that these benefits can include higher base and housing allowances, military health insurance, surviving spousal benefits and relocation assistance.

Receiving Social Security Survivors’ Benefits
If a partner dies, the surviving partner will be able to receive Social Security survivors’ benefits if the couple was married for at least nine months prior to the death. According to The Washington Post, “a spouse can receive half of a retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age.” The surviving partner will also be eligible for other forms of assistance connected to Social Security.

Qualifying For Workplace Coverage
Employees at companies that offer tax-free health care benefits will now be able to receive coverage for their same-sex partners. According to NBC News, spouses will also soon be able to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act’s emergency leave provisions and take time off work to care for a partner or a member of the family.