Organizations representing the gay and lesbian communities lauded the U.S. Supreme Court's two rulings Wednesday--one striking down provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the other upholding the right of gay couples to marry in California. But advocates also warned that the decisions may complicate planning for same-sex couples and their advisors because of the existing patchwork of state bans on same-sex marriages.
Wednesday’s 5-to-4 ruling on DOMA, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, noted that “The Constitution’s guarantee of equality...cannot justify disparate treatment of” lesbian and gay couples. Under the law, the court concluded, “same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways.”
The IRS and Social Security Administration, for example, make determinations as to benefits based on where couples reside and not where they marry. Similarly, federal benefits will vary by agency in situations where gay couples visit or marry in a state where same-sex marriage is permitted, but reside in a state where a ban is in force.