Supreme Court Rulings Strike down DOMA and Prevent Enforcement of California’s Proposition 8

Marriage rulings make federal protections available for up to 114,000 legally married same-sex couples nationwide and open marriage to CA’s estimated 1.1 million LGBT adults.

Of the nation’s approximately 114,000 legally married same-sex couples, 76,000 couples live in states that recognize their marriages. While the remaining 38,000 couples may have married in a jurisdiction that extends marriage to same-sex couples, they no longer reside in a state that recognizes their union.

Listen to Williams Institute Executive Director Brad Sears’ Analysis.

The Supreme Court’s rulings regarding the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor and regarding California’s Proposition 8 in Hollingsworth v. Perry have important social, economic and legal consequences for the nation’s approximately 650,000 same-sex couples living in shared households, of which an estimated 114,100 are legally married.  Federal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages may affect how same-sex couples are treated in relation to a range of federal policies, including immigration, taxation and benefits.  Further, the Williams Institute estimates that, over the next three years, 37,000 California same-sex couples are likely to marry and the state economy will gain approximately $492 million in new business revenue from same-sex couples’ weddings.

“In striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court recognized that DOMA ‘writes inequality into the entire U.S. Code’,” said Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute and Roberta A. Conroy Scholar of Law and Policy.  “It acknowledged that DOMA  materially harms same-sex couples and their children by depriving them of over 1,000 protections and benefits under federal law and by relegating these families to a ‘second-class’ status.”

“By lifting the legal, economic and social burdens previously imposed on same-sex couples by DOMA, the Court’s ruling provides same-sex couples with access to the federal benefits that are designed to strengthen families,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, Williams Institute Research Director and Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

For couples who have entered into legal marriages that are recognized by the federal government, the Windsor ruling could have important consequences across a range of issues:

IMMIGRATION: An estimated 24,700 same-sex couples are bi-national (one US citizen and one non-citizen) along with 11,700 same-sex couples comprised of two non-citizens. The Windsor DOMA ruling has opened the door for a citizen to obtain permanent residence for a non-citizen, same-sex spouse, and expedited citizenship for a resident, same-sex spouse.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Surviving spouses of same-sex couples could gain access to spousal social security benefits, which could add up to more than $5,700 to the monthly income of the surviving spouse.

HEALTH CARE: Same-sex couples working in the private sector pay, on average, $1,000 more than different-sex couples in taxes for employer-sponsored healthcare. Same-sex spouses in federally recognized marriages might no longer be subject to this additional tax burden.

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: Same-sex spouses of federal employees could be eligible for employee benefits that are currently provided to employees with different-sex spouses.

ESTATE TAX: In situations similar to that of plaintiff Edith Windsor in the DOMA case, same-sex spouses who are affected by the estate tax would no longer be subject to a greater federal estate tax burden upon the death of a spouse than similarly-situated different-sex married couples face.

“The Court’s rulings establish the unconstitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that same-sex couples can marry in California, but do not clarify how courts should address other laws that discriminate against LGBT persons,” said David Codell, Visiting Legal Director of the Williams Institute.  “The rulings thus continue to leave open the fate of many federal and state laws and policies that discriminate against LGBT persons in relationship recognition, employment, adoption and foster care, health care, housing, and other areas.”

The ruling in  Hollingsworth v. Perry will open marriage to a same-sex spouse for California’s estimated 1.1 million LGBT adults and nearly 200,000 individuals who are already part of a same-sex couple, but leave 5.5 million LGBT Americans, including more than 800,000 who are part of a same-sex couple, living in states without marriage equality.

“As a result of the court’s ruling, more people are living in states where same-sex couples can marry than ever before,” said Gary Gates, Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar.

Prior to today’s ruling, 18 percent of the entire U.S. population and 22 percent of same-sex couples lived in the 12 states, and the District of Columbia, where same-sex couples can legally marry. By adding California, 30 percent of the entire U.S. population and 37 percent of same-sex couples will now live in states that extend marriage to same-sex couples.

As has been true in other states, allowing same-sex couples to marry will also have positive economic consequences for California. Institute research suggests that California will gain approximately $46 million in tax and fee revenue from the weddings of same-sex couples, and the state’s economy will gain $492 million in business revenue over the next three years.

June 26, 2013

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