The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Wednesday, and by doing so, granted rights to married same-sex couples that were previously only afforded to heterosexual couples. While the scope and administration of marriage has traditionally been left up to the states to determine individually, DOMA defined marriage federally as being between one man and one woman. With DOMA gone, the federal government now legally recognizes same-sex marriages in states that have legalized them. What does that mean for practical purposes? A lot.
1. Same-sex couples now have hospital visitation rights.
It’s the scenario that only the most homophobic people can’t sympathize with: one’s spouse is seriously ill in the hospital. His or her parents are on their way, but for now, it is just the spouse to provide comfort at the hospital. If the spouses are the same gender, access is denied. Until Wednesday. Now same-sex couples have hospital visitation rights in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
2. Gay couples get the tax benefits (and penalties) of married couples
Same-sex couples can now use the marital deduction for tax purposes, and can freely transfer money between each other (both during life and after death). Because certain tax thresholds for married couples are less than half of those same thresholds for single couples, in some cases, married couples actually pay more by combining their assets. You can read a thorough breakdown of these benefits and costs here.
3. Health insurance, baby
Many employers, including the federal government, allow employees to include their spouses on their health plan. That now includes over 100,000 same-sex couples.
4. Social security payments in case of partner’s death
The U.S. makes social security payments to people whose spouses have died, if they consider you legally married. Gay couples are now afforded this benefit.
5. Foreign LGBT husbands and wives can apply for a green card
Couples in which one member is not a legal citizen will now be able to petition the government for immigration benefits. This is a right that hetero couples have taken advantage of for years.
6. Both members of a same-sex couple can now be recognized as parents of a child
Children have numerous tax and legal implications. Before the DOMA ruling, children of same-sex couples often existed in a strange legal limbo of being only one parent’s child.
7. Gay spouses of military couples are afforded new benefits
As a legally recognized married couple, gay spouses in the military may now use their partners’ benefits, including medical and dental insurance. This belies the importance of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which stopped military personnel from even acknowledging that they are gay.