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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gay marriage: 4 federal benefits given to same-sex spouses

By Kris Hopkins

Based on studies performed by the Williams Institute, there are about 650,000 gay couples living together in the country, and about 114,000 of these couples are legally married. This estimated figure could increase significantly due to the court's recent ruling that removes any legal obstacles to gay couples marrying in the state. The common legal obstacles that same-sex couples need to face include filing tax returns and health insurance.

The recent ruling has made it clear that same-sex spouses living in the states that recognize gay marriage will immediately have access to more than a thousand federal benefits, including Social Security as well as family leave rights. Here are a few of the rights given to same-sex spouses.
Same-sex couples are afforded several legal benefits
Legal same-sex couples can share Social Security benefits

Social Security

Same-sex spouses living in the states where gay marriage is legal can now apply for Social Security so that they, too, can enjoy its benefits. This means that they can benefit on their spouses' earnings and survivor benefits. It is also possible that couples in certain civil unions and registered domestic partnerships will also benefit from this. However, these same-sex couples need to understand that they cannot enjoy the same benefits if they move to another state where gay marriage is not recognized or legal.

Health insurance coverage and taxes

With the recent ruling, many gay couples, especially those who work in public agencies, are now able to add their spouse to their health plan. Even before the law has required this coverage, many private companies are extending these benefits to their employees. The only question is whether a same-sex spouse can be added right away. Normally, an employee can add a family member within 30 days of a qualifying event, such as birth of a child or marriage. Gay couples can inquire their employer about the rules concerning these changes.

Aside from coverage, there are also certain changes when it comes to paying the health insurance taxes. Unlike a typical marriage of a man and women, same-sex spouses need to pay federal taxes on the amount of their partner's health insurance. This is due to the fact that the government did not recognize their marriage. Today, gay couples are now treated just like traditional couples. This means that they are not subjected to paying extra taxes. This will result to huge savings in the long run.

Family and medical leave

The law states that big companies and public agencies need to provide their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and continual health benefit for sick leave, child birth or adoption as well as to care for the opposite-sex spouse, a child, or a parent who is sick. In the past, this benefit is only given to opposite-sex married couples. Today though, the law will also extend the same benefits to same-sex spouses.

Federal income taxes

Gay couples who are living in states where gay marriage is legal can now file joint federal income tax returns. This will help them save a lot of money, especially if one spouse earn much less than the other or is unemployed. High-income gay couples who are both employed will probably pay higher income tax.

To that end, filing a joint income tax will lead to the ineligibility of the lower-income couples for certain tax savings, such as the earned-income tax credit. The tax cost will depend on where the couple resides, their income, and their circumstances. Unfortunately, it is still unclear whether the gay couple can still file a joint federal return if they decide to move to a state where gay marriage is not legal.

About the author: The author, Kris Hopkins is a blogger for law firms and websites. In this article, she lists a few of the federal benefits given to gay married couples and discusses how it can help these couples. She also advises her readers to seek legal assistance from reputable law firms, such as Livesay & Myers.

* Image attribution: Mike Licht; CC BY-2.0