Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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How will court ruling affect the rights of same-sex spouses?

In June of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law that dated back to 1996. Since DOMA was overturned, same-sex spouses in Massachusetts and 37 other states have had access to each other's federal benefits such as health insurance, Social Security benefits, veteran's benefits and retirement savings. However, at state level, many couples in other states are still being denied certain benefits that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

A case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court may determine whether gay and lesbian people in all states will have a constitutional right to marry in the future. This case may only come to a conclusion in June, and the anticipation of the outcome is widespread. Same-sex marriages are currently recognized in 37 states, and couples who got married in these states experience many problems if they relocate to any of the 13 states where such marriages are unlawful.

If it is ruled that a same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, same-sex couples in the 13 states will be eligible for various state benefits for which heterosexual couples automatically qualify. Filing joint tax returns provides couples with several tax benefits that can be explained by professional advisors. Giving them the right to marry will also give same-sex spouses the rights to accumulated marital assets and spousal support in the event of divorces.

If a same-sex partner dies, the surviving spouse will be allowed to claim ownership of assets such as the home, the car or other assets. Under current law, such assets can be claimed by the deceased's family members. Same-sex spouses in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized have no next-of-kin rights. If a partner is hospitalized, his or her spouse may finally have the right to make decisions related to medical treatment, rather than having to leave important decisions to the patient's family members. While the outcome of this important case is still unknown, same-sex couples in Massachusetts enjoy the privileges enjoyed by heterosexual couples, but they may want to be prepared for problems that may arise if they choose to relocate to other states.

Source: glamour.com, "3 Rights Gay Couples Will Get If Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gay Marriage", Kim Fusaro, April 29, 2015

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