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Uncle Sam Slowly Nears the 21st Century: Federal Victories for Same-sex Couples

From the New York Times, 2/8/2014


More Federal Privileges to Extend to Same-Sex Couples


The federal government will soon treat married same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples when they file for bankruptcy, testify in court or visit family in prison.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was preparing to issue policies aimed at eliminating the distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the federal criminal justice system, according to excerpts from a speech prepared for a Saturday event organized by a prominent gay-rights group.

“In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages,” Mr. Holder’s prepared remarks said, according to the excerpts circulated by the Justice Department.

The changes were set in motion last year when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to refuse federal benefits to married same-sex couples, a ruling that Mr. Holder supported.

Since the ruling in June, the Obama administration has rewritten federal rules to allow same-sex couples to file taxes together and receive Medicare and other benefits reserved for married couples. Mr. Holder has been the public face of those efforts and has made championing gay rights one of the central messages of his tenure.






From the New York Times, 2/8/2014


Victory, and Tax Changes, for Same-Sex Couples


Erin E. Miller and her wife may have to pay more income tax this year, but they aren’t about to protest. Quite the opposite.


They are delighted.


The change in their tax situation results from the Supreme Court’s landmark June decision, in United States v. Windsor, which declared that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the Constitution. The ruling expands the rights of gay couples, but one consequence is that some couples will pay higher taxes.


“I don’t care,” said Ms. Miller, a software engineer who lives in Beverly, Mass. “I’m thrilled that DOMA was struck down, regardless of my own personal situation.”




This year’s rules are a huge change from those in previous years, when the I.R.S. did not recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that had legalized them. The change followed the Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the part of DOMA that said the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages that were legal under state laws.


In that case, Edith Windsor, the survivor in a legally married same-sex couple, challenged the I.R.S.’s denial of her marital status after her spouse’s death. If she had been recognized as the spouse, she would have owed no inheritance tax. Because she was not a spouse under DOMA, she owed $363,053. The Supreme Court said that the part of the law requiring the federal government to ignore same-sex marriages was unconstitutional and that Ms. Windsor was thus entitled to rely on her valid same-sex marriage to determine her status. Two months later, the I.R.S. issued its new guidelines.