The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a key aspect of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a watershed moment in the struggle for gay and lesbian equality in this country. Now the federal government faces the complex task of implementing the court’s ruling as quickly as possible.
The justices were clear in their requirements, at least for all “lawful marriages”: Couples in same-sex marriages must be treated the same as their heterosexual counterparts in terms of federal benefits, including inheritance, retirement and, perhaps most important, health care.
What isn’t clear, however, is what happens when lawfully married same-sex couples live in one of what legal scholars have called the 36 “mini-DOMA” states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
As Bloomberg News points out, roughly one-third of the approximately 130,000 married same-sex couples in the United States live in those states. Will they get the benefits they are due?
For the sake of clarity and equality, lawmakers must help the administration harmonize standards across the government, recognizing the union of any couple legally married in any state, no matter where they now reside and no matter what piece of the federal government is looking.