The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is now history, which is to be rightfully celebrated. But there will be a lot of questions and clarifications as to just how this impacts gay couples across the nation. Thanks in part to the patch-work of same-sex marriage laws and bans, we’ve still a ways to go before we are fully equal. The Washington Post has a brief explanation of what we need to begin to know:
What Does This Mean for Gay Couples?
It depends on what area you’re talking about. “What section 3 of DOMA does is that it performs a find and replace of every instance of ‘spouse’ or ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ appears and changes it so that it’s “opposite sex husband” or ‘opposite sex wife’,” says Rita Lin, a partner at Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco who argued Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management, another DOMA case. “The effect is going to vary based on which of the thousand-plus statutes or regulations are affected.”
There are some clear-cut cases. It seems pretty clear that legally married same-sex couples where one member is employed by the federal government are entitled to spousal benefits, just the same as any other married couple. For other legally married couples who don’t live in states where same-sex marriage is recognized, there’s some question as to whether the “state of celebration” or “state of residence” matters. Usually, the former is the standard used, meaning a marriage is valid if it’s valid in the state it was celebrated. That would mean most legally married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live, are entitled to spousal benefits.