In 36 states, same-sex couples are already able to legally marry. In the 13 holdout states, same-sex couples are eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The court must decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
If the court rules in favor of same sex marriage, then same sex couples in all 50 states will be able to marry. In addition, the decision will have far reaching financial implications, such as social security, tax, and estate planning benefit once denied to same-sex couples.
Social Security Benefits
Social Security provides support for disabled and retired Americans from contributions through payroll tax. For married couples, when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on the deceased spouse's benefits.
However, married same-sex couples living in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage are denied those same benefits. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, all married same-sex couples will be able to access these benefits.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act's definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. This allowed married same-sex couples to reap the benefits of filing federal taxes jointly. However, same-sex couples in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages were unable to file state taxes jointly.
A favorable Supreme Court ruling would allow all married same-sex couples to take advantage of filing state and federal taxes jointly. Same-sex couples will also be able to benefit from both state and federal estate tax, gift tax, and transfer tax rules.
Same-sex couples could always ensure that they're property is transferred to their spouse or significant other through a will. However, when people died without wills, their properties are divided up by intestate succession laws.
Intestate succession laws rely on the legal status of marriage to give one spouse a right to a deceased spouse' property. In states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, people whose same-sex partners died intestate are left with no legal right to property through intestate succession laws. A ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will remedy this dilemma for same-sex couples.
We are all eagerly waiting for the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which should be out soon.