June 27, 2013

Many in Maine applaud gay rights ruling

They say it's only fair same-sex married couples get the same benefits as heterosexual married couples, but the state's Catholic bishop calls it 'truly a tragic day.'

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Same-sex supporters gathered at Portland City Hall to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 to give the nation's legally married gay couples equal federal footing with all other married Americans. Supporters (from left) Shannon Tallman, Raminta Moore, Betsy Parsons and Jason Wilkins, all of Portland, listen to speakers at the event.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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Chris Kast, a brand strategist at The Brand Co. in Portland, is seen here with a photo of his husband Byron Bartlett on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. They were two of many local residents to celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Q & A ON THE RULING

PORTLAND — While many gay couples and their supporters celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act that denied married gay couples federal recognition, the change in federal law will leave many in Maine wondering what it will all mean, practically.

Attorney Catherine Connors, a partner at the law firm Pierce Atwood on Portland’s waterfront, has followed the case closely and said it may be too soon to answer many of those questions.

“The federal system now needs to recognize the states’ adoption of marriage equality,” Connors said.

But how the different states will interact with one another will differ from state to state.

Here are Connors’ answers to some of those questions:

Q: What federal laws are affected by Wednesday’s decision?

A: “There are more than 1,000 federal laws that are related to your marital status, and they are all going to have to get sorted out. President Obama already has his people working on explanations,” Connors said. “All of the rights that you have for regular married people, you will now have in state of Maine for same-sex marriage. You have to look at it law by law.”

Q: Do other states have to recognize a gay couple’s marriage in Maine?

A: “We will wait for another day to find out if a state is going to have to recognize for another state.

That aspect of the Defense of Marriage Act wasn’t stricken down because it wasn’t challenged. This raises a whole host of nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day, what-really-matters-to-people  issues. And they will have to get sorted out one by one,” Connors said.

If Maine says a person in a same-sex marriage is legally married, then the federal government also says that person is legally married. But another state may or may not recognize that same marriage as legal, she said.

Q: Will this change how married gay couples file their taxes?

A: Yes, same-sex couples will soon have the “joy” of filing joint federal tax returns, Connors said, but state taxes could be a different matter. In Maine, where same-sex marriage is legal, married gay couples will now be able file both their federal and state taxes jointly. But in other states, where same-sex marriage is not legal, married gay couples can file federal taxes jointly, but will still have to file state taxes as “single.” The issue gets muddier if someone earns incomes in multiple states.

Q: How will the decision affect other federal benefits?

A: Estate planning: Even in states that recognized same-sex marriages, gay couple often had to do a tremendous amount of work to protect their estates if one person died before the other. “Now it will be simpler,” Connors said.

Military veterans: The spouse of a military veteran in a same-sex marriage will now be eligible for veteran’s benefits, including burial in a national cemetery at a veteran’s side when the spouse dies.

For specific questions, Connors said people should call a telephone hotline set up by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. Specialists trained to answer questions are available at (800) 455-4523 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

People can also submit their questions to the group’s website, www.glad.org/infoline-contact.

– Scott Dolan

"DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, before I was elected to Congress," Collins said. "Since that time, in 2004 and 2006, I twice voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by pre-empting state laws. I did so because states have traditionally handled family law. I agree with the court's decision that the federal government should not discriminate against couples married in states that choose to legalize same-sex marriages."

Sen. Angus King said: "Today the United States Supreme Court delivered justice to thousands of gay Americans who, although legally married in their home states, have for far too long been wrongly denied the equality they deserve under the law. The landmark ruling represents a significant step forward in ensuring all married couples -- all married couples -- enjoy equal treatment under federal law and have access to all relevant benefits and protections."

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud also issued statements applauding the court's decision.

"DOMA was a bad law to begin with and the Supreme Court did the right thing in striking it down," Pingree said in a written statement. "As voters and legislatures in Maine and states throughout the country have shown, the government has no business telling two people in a loving, committed relationship that they can't get married. Although there is still a long way to go for true marriage equality in all 50 states, as of today the federal government won't be standing in the way of that goal."

Michaud said: "I applaud the justices for striking down the discriminatory ban that prohibits legally married same-sex couples and their children in states like Maine from receiving all of the rights, protections and responsibilities marriage affords. I was proud to speak out publicly for the freedom to marry when Question 1 was on the ballot last year, and I was personally proud to vote 'Yes' to allow all loving, committed couples in our state to obtain a marriage license."

Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said his group, which campaigned last fall against same-sex marriage in Maine leading up to the ballot referendum, disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision.

"That opinion assumes states have the right to force a definition of marriage upon the federal government. Most importantly, the court rejected the argument that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage," Conley said. "We believe these decisions leave options open for a continued and vigorous advocacy of traditional marriage on a state-by-state basis. We are committed to continuing to defend the rights of Maine citizens to live by their conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman."

Conley said that his group is committed to "vigorous advocacy for traditional marriage," and also is committed to conducting that debate in a respectful manner.

-- Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller contributed to this report.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Stevie Martin-Chester, left, and his husband of 20 years, Arthur Martin-Chester, from Norristown, attend a rally in support of Wednesday's landmark Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, Steven M. Falk)

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Members of the LGBT community and their supporters gather to celebrate two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, one to invalidate parts of the Defense of Marriage Act and another to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down California's controversial Proposition 8, during a rally in New York's Greenwich Village, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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People wave American and gay pride flags outside the old Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, to celebrate the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act by the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, John Lok)

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From left, Mel Shartrand, Maddyson Maddox and Makayla Maddox hold up gay rights flags during a gathering at Memorial Park to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/The World-Herald, )

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Daniel Hicks sits on a pillar with his boyfriend to watch the local crowd celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on two landmark gay rights cases surrounding same-sex marriage on the corner of Piedmont Ave. and Tenth Street in Midtown, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jaime Henry-White)

 


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Today's poll: Gay rights ruling

Are you pleased with the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage?

Yes

No

View Results