The Supreme Court is expected to announce a ruling on Tuesday that could greatly expand benefits to same-sex couples in the United States.
Similar to when we documented the legalization of gay marriage in Minnesota, the court ruling will be felt across the nation.
The case at hand is Windsor v. United States, which challenges the legality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Family Law Attorney Amanda Crain explained why the case has national implications.
“Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the term marriage is defined as a ‘legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife’,” said Crain. “This federal law bans the recognition of same-sex marriages, even if they are recognized at the state level. The act requires inter-state marriage recognition only for opposite sex couples, but not same-sex couples.”
Simply put, because same-sex marriages are not recognized at the federal level, many of these couples are not granted the same federal benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Opponents of the act say it is constitutionally unjust to deny same-sex couples these federal benefits.
Crain detailed how Minnesota’s recent ruling on gay marriage is different than the federal case at hand.
“Starting August 1, 2013, Minnesota law will recognize same-sex marriages, which means that same-sex couples will have the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples in the state of Minnesota,” said Crain. “Same-sex couples will be granted equal rights at the state level, but they will still be denied rights at federal level if DOMA is upheld.”
Crain broke down both possible outcomes of the vote, saying:
- If DOMA is upheld under Windsor, same-sex couples in Minnesota would still have rights in Minnesota at the state level, but would not enjoy federal rights, such as filing a joint tax return as a married couple or receiving estate tax benefits that are currently afforded only to heterosexual married couples.
- If DOMA is struck down, same-sex marriages would be recognized at the state and federal level, and same-sex couples would be afforded such federal benefits.
Chief Justice Kennedy is expected to issue the ruling later today, but the ruling could also be handed down Wednesday. For up-to-date information regarding the ruling and other SCOTUS decisions, follow Heimerl & Lammers on Twitter @MN_Attorneys.
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