What Are the Practical Consequences of the Gay Marriage Rulings?

A blog about business and economics.
June 26 2013 5:04 PM

Dignity Is Nice, but What About the Benefits of Gay Marriage?

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Supporters of same-sex marriage stand in front of San Francisco City Hall on June 26, 2013. The Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage aren't just symbolic—a host of practical effects comes with the broadening of marriage equality.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In light of the repeal of DOMA earlier today, Slate has been thinking about the many rights and privileges that married couples have. Equal access to marriage is about dignity, but it’s also about the practical aspects of sharing a life with someone. Here’s to filing joint tax returns!

Married people can:

  • Inherit a spouse’s estate without paying taxes. This was the issue at the heart of the DOMA case, Windsor v. United States. Edith Windsor had to pay estate taxes after her wife died, which the Supreme Court judged to be unconstitutional. She’ll get a refund.
  • File jointly for bankruptcy, eliminating the debt for both spouses.
  • Qualify to take leave to care for a spouse with a serious medical condition if the job is protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Under spousal testimonial privilege, one spouse can’t be forced to testify against the other in court.
  • File joint tax returns. In some cases this will increase the couple’s tax bill; in other cases it will decrease it, as Matt Yglesias pointed out this morning.
  • Get divorced.
  • Deduct alimony payments from federal income tax.
  • Qualify for Medicare based on a spouse’s employment.
  • Qualify for health plans under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program if one spouse is a member of the uniformed services.
  • Sponsor a spouse for an immigration visa.
  • Qualify for benefits if one spouse is or has been an employee of the federal government. These benefits vary but include health insurance (including dental and vision) and long-term care insurance.
  • Receive specific Social Security benefits, such as the “surviving spouse benefit,” under which a person can choose to either continue receiving his or her own Social Security payment or collect that of his or her spouse.
  • Receive veterans benefits, which include health care, dependency and indemnity compensation, and educational assistance programs.
  • Delay enrollment in Medicare Part B (hospital insurance) and D (prescription drug coverage) if one spouse is still working and has a health plan. Otherwise a person could incur a penalty for not enrolling upon turning 65.
  • Veterans’ spouses can get priority over nonveterans in job training programs, qualify to receive educational assistance, receive medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and get a memorial headstone paid for by the U.S. government.
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Ciara McCarthy is a Slate intern.

Mariana Zepeda is a Slate intern.