Same Sex Marriage Rights Cases Addressed by Supreme Court

Same Sex Marriage Rights are to be addressed, in four cases, by Supreme Court. More guidance and potential legal changes regarding same sex marriage is back in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2013, the Supreme Court decision (Windsor case) struck down the federal law, known as DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) which opened the door for full legal recognition by the federal government that same sex married couples had the same legal rights as opposite sex married couples.   Recently, on Friday, January 16, 2015, in another move to provide further guidance regarding the rights of same sex couples, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear four same sex marriage cases (from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee- all states that do not recognize same sex marriage) and issued a framework for two questions the Court will consider for decision:

  • “Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?”
  • "Does the 14th Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage is lawfully licensed and performed out of state?”

Significant legal problems have been increasing in which same sex couples marry in a state, such as Massachusetts, that recognizes same sex marriage and then the couple returns to their home state which does not recognize their same sex marriage. Although this couple can now file joint federal income tax returns and receive all the benefits that legal spouse would derive in the “eyes” of the federal government, if that same sex couple lives in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage, they cannot file joint state tax returns, enjoy any state pension benefits, or get divorced in that state. The divorce dilemma is significant: the same sex couple cannot divorce in their home state because their marriage is not recognized, yet they cannot get divorced in another state, because they don’t meet jurisdictional requirement (e.g. in Massachusetts, there is a one year residency requirement) to file an action in another state. Therefore, they now must exist in this legal limbo waiting for a legal solution. These legal questions and resulting analysis the Supreme, which primarily addresses the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, will likely produce decisions by the end of June, 2015.

-Marcia J. Mavrides, Esq.

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