The Supreme Court’s ruling that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional paves the way for married gay couples to receive more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections their straight counterparts already can receive.
The ruling applies to all married couples in Massachusetts, as well as the 11 other states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal.
Here are some of the larger benefits and changes gay married couples will now see:
File a joint federal tax return
Before gay married couples in Massachusetts had to file jointly for the state income tax and then file separately as a single person for their federal tax returns.
All benefits to opposite-sex military spouses will now apply to same-sex spouses as well. Additionally, spouses of deceased veterans will be eligible to receive veterans’ benefits. Other benefits include spousal coverage under health care plans and housing allowances to cover gay married couples.
Social Security survivor benefits
If a spouse in the marriage dies, the surviving spouse can now collect the deceased spouse’s Social Security checks if that amount is higher than the one he or she was currently receiving.
Federal estate tax break
An unlimited marital deduction now applies on both the state and federal level, meaning that if one spouse wanted to leave all possessions and assets to the living spouse, he or she would be able to do so, without that amount being taxed. Previously, the federal estate tax was 40 percent on any estate over $5.25 million.
If one spouse sells land to another, capital gains taxes will not apply.
Retirement plan rollover
A deceased spouse’s Individual Retirement Account can roll over into the survivor’s without being taxed first.
Federal health care protections
Same-sex married couples will now be eligible to receive COBRA benefits and spousal benefits in Medicare, cutting the cost of those health plans.
Federal employee benefits
For federal employees, the government will recognize gay spouses, making them eligible for a variety of benefits such as healthcare coverage. Federal gay married employees can also participate in family medical leaves.
Spouses who are citizens can now sponsor a visa for a noncitizen spouse and the foreign national can receive spousal preference for a path to citizenship.