On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) enacted by former President Bill Clinton in 1996, is unconstitutional. Under DOMA, the Federal Government did not provide couples of same –sex marriages the same privileges and rights of couples of heterosexual marriages, while simultaneously allowing states to not recognize same-sex marriages of other states. This created conflict in light of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution, which addresses the obligation of the states to recognize the laws of other states.
Upon the Court determining that DOMA is unconstitutional, same-sex couples have been afforded the same federal legal rights as heterosexual couples. In the context of a matrimonial situation in the state of New York, this includes the right of a spouse to receive an award of
equitable distribution as a non-taxable event, to file a joint tax return on the federal level, to take
maintenance (alimony) payments as a deduction on an income tax return on the federal level, and
pension rights of his or her spouse.
This is a historic event in affording the gay community equal protection under the laws of the United States of America. However, the decision remains silent on each states obligation to give full faith and credit to the same-sex marriages of other states, which means that there are sure to be further unresolved issues in the future for the gay community.
We would suspect that future case law will make clear that states cannot fail to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state as same would be a denial of equal protection under the law. However, such case law has not yet been developed. Therefore, it is important to speak with an attorney as the laws of our nation rapidly change to assure you and your family are well protected.