Federal Benefits for the Married

The Washington Post reports that the Internal Revenue Service has amended their policy on who is deemed “legally married.” Jack Lew, the United States Treasury Secretary, that the IRS would allow legally married same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, regardless of where they live.

I am immediately reminded of what I wrote on the topic back in June when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act:

This all seems simple enough, except it has some profound implications for the entire country, including this State. If a couple, legally married in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, moves to Texas, may they continue filing joint income tax returns? Will the Federal Government continue recognizing them as married even though their new State does not? These are questions for future litigation.

In a further move, NBC News reports that, just today, that a Federal Judge has ordered the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to begin offering full military benefits to the legally married same-sex spouses of servicemembers. Now, in this case, the plaintiffs lived in California, so there is still no precedent for if the couple moves to a State with a regressive definition of marriage.

That being said, the joint tax-returns policy is a landmark for the inevitable road towards full legal equality for gays & lesbians. What this news means, simply put, is that a Texas same-sex couple who travels to New Mexico and gets married may return home and receive some Federal benefits for being married. One of the next major steps will be joint Bankruptcy petitions (Taxes, Bankruptcy, it seems that to call them “benefits” is somewhat of a misnomer). The big prize will be pensions and survivor benefits/healthcare to the spouses of Federal employees.