In a landmark decision this week, the U.S. Supreme Court passed down a ruling that would give gay couples in state-sanctioned marriages the same federal rights and protection given to traditional married couples. This ruling overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1996, which, the Court said, violated equal liberties protected by the Fifth Amendment. (1)
According to the federal government’s General Accounting Office, more than 1,100 rights and responsibilities are given to married couples in the U.S. These include Social Security and veteran’s benefits; health matters, such as Medicaid, insurance, family leave and hospital visitation; retirement and pension savings; estate taxes and immigration issues. Because DOMA recognized marriage as a union “between a man and a woman,” these rights and benefits offered to couples in traditional marriages were denied to those in same-sex marriages.(2) The Supreme Court’s recent decision changes that.
This decision, however, did not say that same-sex marriages must be recognized in all states. Only 12 states and the District of Columbia currently recognize same-sex marriages.(1) Other states, including New Jersey, recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships. Generally, these relationships carry rights that are recognized only in the states where the couples reside.