NEW YORK - In the wake of the US Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down Section Three of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 11 national LGBT advocacy organizations jointly issued a series of factsheets to provide guidance to same-sex couples and their families as they navigate accessing federal rights, benefits, and protections.
"After DOMA: What it Means For You" LGBT Organizations Fact Sheet Series details many of the ways federal agencies accord legal respect to married same-sex couples. The guide includes 14 factsheets on the following topics: Bankruptcy, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Federal Employee Benefits, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Immigration, Medicaid, Medicare, Military Spousal Benefits, Private Employment Benefits, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Taxes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Veteran Spousal Benefits.
"This is an exciting time and an historic step forward for the country. We want to make sure that same-sex couples have a guide to help them understand what it means for them," said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. "Whether you are a federal employee, a student , a veteran, immigrating, or in need of public assistance benefits, this series of factsheets can offer information about which federal rights, benefits, and protections may be available to you and your same-sex spouse, and how you can help protect your family."
There are more than 1,100 places in federal law where a protection or responsibility is based on marital status. The ruling striking down DOMA will not be effective until 25 days from the decision, but even when effective, federal agencies - large bureaucracies - may need and take some time to change forms, implement procedures, train personnel, and efficiently incorporate same-sex couples into the spousal-based system.
Until same-sex couples can marry in every state in the nation, there will be uncertainty about the extent to which same-sex spouses will receive federal marital-based protections nationwide. For federal programs that assess marital status based on the law of a state that does not respect marriages of same-sex couples, those state laws will likely pose obstacles for legally married couples and surviving spouses in accessing federal protections and responsibilities.
The fact sheets are intended to provide general information regarding major areas of federal marriage-based rights and protections offered by federal agencies. Before making a decision, it is essential that same-sex couples consult an attorney for individualized legal advice. People must make careful decisions when and where to marry, even as advocates work towards equality.
The fact sheet series produced together by: American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and OutServe-SLDN.
See the fact sheets HERE.