Federal ruling affects non-traditional couples in Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts has recognized the marriages of non-traditional couples as legal unions since 2004. However, the federal government’s acknowledgement of these unions is critical in regards to finances. Non-traditional couples can now have access to their spouses Social Security survivor benefits, estate tax exemptions and federal pensions. This evens the playing field for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in regards to the financial benefits of marriage.

Marriages recognized at the state level are important in regards to the ownership of property, when medical decisions need to be made and when the couple has children. Marriages recognized at the federal level bring greater financial security as well as federal health benefits to those in non-traditional marriages who have a spouse working for the federal government. The military will also be making changes due to the new federal ruling. All military spouses, — heterosexual unions, as well as same sex unions — will now be receiving the same military benefits.

There are some issues which will still need to be overcome. Those same-sex couples who do not live in one of the 13 states that recognize same-sex marriages can have issues with some federal benefits due to the fact that the benefits are based on the rules of the state in which the beneficiary resides. Given this issue, it may be beneficial for non-traditional couples to reside in states which recognize their marriage as a legal union.

The hope is that the current administration will be able to extend as many federal benefits to non-traditional couples in every state. Because of the issues between those states recognizing same-sex unions and those that do not, it is important that those affected take into consideration how traveling or moving from a state that recognizes their union, such as Massachusetts, to one that does not, will affect them. The potential for difficulties becomes greater in states that do not recognize same-sex couples rights.

Source: Bloomberg.com, “You’re a Gay Couple. Now What Do You Do?” Ben Steverman, June 27, 2013

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