U.S. Supreme Court Rules Same Sex Marriage is Legal in All 50 States – @BryanTukArtsLaw

For watchers of the US Supreme Court, or for politically minded people, same sex marriage has been a hot button issue.  Marriage equality, or same sex marriage, has been one of the key battles in the culture wars between conservatives and liberals.

The last decade has seen many state legislatures and also the US Congress adopt “defense of marriage” statutes, in which the legal definition of marriage was a marriage or union between one woman and one man.  Those laws have been contested in court for years and years, and we now are at the end of all of those legal battles.

The culture war is over.  The Supreme Court ruled today that it is unconstitutional for any state governments to deny same sex couples marriage licenses.

Today the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the States must  issue marriage licenses to same sex couples who apply for them, and that the States must recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.  This ruling was not unanimous, it was decided by a 5-4 margin.

So what does this mean for us in our daily lives?  The answer is quite a lot.  While much of the journalism out there has focused heavily on the symbolism of the wedding ceremony, there are many other facets of people’s legal rights that will be affected.

Married same sex couples can now get prenuptial agreements that have some legal significance.

Married same sex couples can now treat one another as spouses in their wills.  Before today’s ruling, this was legally not possible.  If there is no will, the intestacy statues in Pennsylvania and all other states determine how a decedent’s property passes to the survivors.  As you can imagine, the surviving spouse is given preferential treatment on some of those issues.  The Court’s ruling should grant surviving same sex spouses that same preferential treatment.

Any barriers based in state law that would have the effect of making it more difficult for married same sex couples to adopt children now will have to be repealed.

Inevitably, some married same sex couples will eventually divorce.  The Divorce Code in Pennsylvania is has a lot of assumptions built into about the “traditional” roles of men and women in marriage.  This is particularly true in the sections that detail the parties’ obligations with respect to alimony and child support.

Another area that will be tremendously significant for same sex couples is the tax code.  The IRS will have to amend its forms to provide for the fact that married same sex couples can file joint tax returns, and take the same tax deductions that heterosexual married couples have taken for years.

The Court’s decision in this case is going to be felt for years, in many ways that we can’t anticipate today.

Bryan Tuk is an attorney focused on business law, family law & nonprofits and arts organization law.  To learn more, visit http://tuklaw.com and you can follow him on Twitter @BryanTukArtsLaw.