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Same-sex Marriage Laws

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What Is the Current Status of Same-Sex Couples?

At first, gay couples were able to legally enter into a union of same-sex marriage only in the states of Massachusetts and Oregon. In June 2015, the U.S Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in every state and extended the right for same-sex couples to marry.

What Is Same-Sex Marriage?

Same-sex marriage refers to a legally recognized marriage between two spouses that are the same gender. Since the Supreme Court's ruling in 2015, same-sex couples can now legally get married in every state and have the same protections and benefits as opposite-sex couples such as tax relief, emergency medical power, access to domestic relation laws, spousal benefits, workers compensation, inheritance rights, and spousal testimonial privilege.

What Is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act?

The Federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) denied federal recognition of gay marriages and accordingly all federal rights available to married couples. The Act defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and gave each state the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriage licenses.  However, the Act did not prohibit states from allowing gay marriages, nor does it obligate states to recognize gay marriages from other states.


In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional. Same-sex married couples can now receive federal benefits. This means that married same-sex couples living in the states that allow same-sex marriage are entitled to the same federal benefits and protections that married heterosexuals couples have. In 2015, this means that same-sex couples have the same federal protections and benefits in every state since same-sex marriage is now legal in every state.

What Are Some Rights a Gay Partner May Acquire from Marriage?

Marriage, or legal relations which grant the same benefits as marriage, confers certain rights. Such rights include, but are not limited to:

  • Estate planning – The laws of each state govern the division of property when a person dies intestate. In a state where same-sex couples are not recognized and in the absence of a valid will, the estate of a lesbian or gay man will be divided accordingly amongst his or her surviving biological family regardless of how remote that relationship may be.
  • Power of attorney – Individual may entrust their gay partner to hold a power of attorney to enable the gay partner to enter into contracts, negotiate, and settle matters as if they were that other person.
  • Medical Power of attorney – Authorizes a gay partner to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are no longer competent to do so on your own. This includes determining whether life-support measures should be halted. The partner may also determine what to do with a body in the event of a death.
  • Insurance Coverage – Life insurance, auto insurance, insurance granted by employers and other benefits may extend to the partner.
  • Parentage – Women with same sex partners may have their partner’s name on their child’s birth certificate. Male partners using a surrogate mother, however, must still go through additional legal work to obtain legal parental rights.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

Each state varies as to their recognition of same sex couples and their respective rights. Therefore, if you are involved in a same sex relationship, it is wise to consult with a family attorney when planning out a life together with your partner.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-30-2018 01:56 AM PDT

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