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US Supreme Court Rules that DOMA is unconstitutional

There is no escaping the endless news stories involving the controversial issue of gay marriage lately, and Wednesday June 26, 2013, was no different. In fact, if you have twitter, facebook, or internet access for that matter, there was no escaping the conversations about the United States Supreme Court decision holding that DOMA is unconstitutional.

DOMA stands for the “Defense of Marriage Act” which was enacted by Congress in 1996.1 DOMA essentially codified the federal rule that if a state legalized marriage between same sex couples, another state was no required to recognize that union, even if entered into legally in another state. DOMA was a departure from the United States Constitutional provision which requires each state to give full faith and credit to other state’s laws.2

For example, if an opposite sex couple enters into a valid marriage in Nevada, every other state in the United States, must recognize that union as a valid and legal marriage, which means that if the couple lives in another state, or move to another state, the other state must treat the Nevada married couple as having a legal and valid marriage.

Currently, thirteen (13) states in the United States, and the District of Columbia, have legalized gay marriage, with Massachusetts being the first in 2004:

  1. Massachusetts (May 17, 2004)
  2. Connecticut (Nov. 12, 2008)
  3. Iowa (Apr. 24. 2009)
  4. Vermont (Sep. 1, 2009)
  5. New Hampshire (Jan. 1, 2010)
  6. District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) (March 3, 2010)
  7. New York (June 24, 2011)
  8. Maryland (Nov. 6, 2012)
  9. Maine (Nov. 6, 2012)
  10. Washington (Nov. 6, 2012)
  11. Rhode Island (May 2, 2013)
  12. Delaware (May 7, 2013)
  13. Minnesota (May 14, 2013)
  14. California (June 26, 2013)3

Thus, prior to the Supreme Court’s holding on June 26th, DOMA allowed any other state not to recognize a legally entered into marriage in one of the states that legalized gay marriages. Thus, if a same sex couple legally married in New York, and then moved to Indiana, Indiana did not have to recognize that union as a legal marriage, nor provide any of the state benefits to married, couples, or apply the laws (such as divorce, or probate following the death of a spouse) to that couple.

In United States v. Windsor4 the Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples, who have entered into legal marriages in states which have legalized same sex marriages, will receive equal treatment under federal law with regard to income taxes, estate taxes and social security benefits.

We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the recent United States Supreme Court holding. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Lori Schmeltzer.

  1. 28 USC § 1738C
  2. US Const. Art. IV, Sec. 1
  4. United States v. Windsor

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