MONTHLY ARCHIVES: JUNE 2015
June 26, 2015
SAME-SEX COUPLES: WHAT DOES TODAY’S SUPREME COURT DECISION MEAN?
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking opinion in the case Obergefell v. Hodges regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriages in the United States. Today, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court has legalized marriage equality for all. This revolutionary decision comes exactly two years to the day after another landmark Supreme Court decision regarding the rights of same-sex couples in Windsor v. United States,where the Supreme Court decided that the federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse,” as exclusive to only heterosexual unions, was unconstitutional.
The Obergefell decision takes marriage equality to the next level as it declares that state marriage bans are unconstitutional. Therefore, the 13 states that still prohibited same-sex marriages prior to this decision will no longer be able to legally do so. Not only will those states be required under this decision to allow same-sex marriages, but they must also marry same-sex couples. This decision means that all U.S. jurisdictions must perform and recognize same-sex marriages.
To read the full opinion, visit: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES?
If you are recently married, you are now legally married in all 50 states for all purposes under federal and state law and you are afforded all of the rights and obligations of a legally married couple. If you travel across state lines, your marriage will be recognized in all jurisdictions. However, there are important considerations that all married couples, especially recently married couples, should be concerned about. Now that there is marriage equality for all couples in the United States, married couples must consider how marriage affects filing taxes, employee benefits, retirement and Social Security, estate planning, healthcare, alimony, insurance, etc.
Because same-sex couples’ marriages are now valid in all states, couples must file federal income taxes indicating that they are “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” It may be beneficial to retroactively claim marital status on previous tax returns; however, there are some things to take into consideration. For example, combining your income with your spouse’s income may bump you into a higher tax bracket or it could affect financial aid for you or your children. Contact our office to determine what the best choice is for your family.
Married same-sex couples will gain employee benefits that may not have been available before. If your same-sex spouse falls ill, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who are eligible will have the ability to take a leave of absence from work to care for the spouse. Additionally, you may be able to secure a cheaper healthcare program by moving onto your spouse’s workplace healthcare plan or vice versa. A same-sex spouse may now also have funds from Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) put toward healthcare expenses. However, if you and your spouse do choose to file your taxes jointly, you may have to pay surtaxes on Medicare because your income level is higher.
Same-sex couples can now, in most qualified plans, be the sole primary beneficiary on their spouse’s retirement plans, including defined contribution and defined benefit plans. Another consideration is whether you would like to update your IRA (both Regular and Roth IRAs) to add your spouse as the beneficiary if he or she is not yet the person listed. That way, your surviving spouse would be able to roll your IRA into his or her IRA upon your death without any consequences at the time of the rollover. You may now also consider a spousal IRA or contemplate making contributions to your IRA based on you and your spouse’s combined income.
Same-sex couples should be able to file for Social Security spousal benefits at the appropriate time. However, note that spousal or survivor benefits should be factored into financial plans and couples are encouraged to discuss their plans with a knowledgeable advisor about how best to optimize these benefits. You may also want to consider adding your spouse to your voluntary group life insurance plan if that is something that your employer offers.
In terms of estate planning and planning for the transfer of your assets, it is very important to make sure that you keep your estate documents updated and implement any spousal related tax-deductions that you may now be eligible for. Same-sex spouses are now able to gift things to each other without being subject to federal income taxes or gift taxes. Be sure to also determine if your property is titled in a manner that will allow for transfer rights and taxation, and if you file taxes jointly, then the $500,000 home sale tax exclusion applies. It is also crucial to make sure that your power of attorney authorizations are current in relation to financial matters as well as medical care.
Anyone planning to be married should seriously consider having a prenuptial agreement executed with their future spouse. Our Firm can help you with that, of course.
Interested in learning more about the legal services offered by the ZAVOS JUNCKER LAW GROUP, PLLC? Please visit us on our website at www.zavosjunckerlawgroup.com.
This Press Release is provided for informational purposes only. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the contents of the Press Release should not be construed as legal advice, which, of necessity, must relate to specific factual situations and claims. This Press Release DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship between our Firm and any reader. You are urged to consult with counsel concerning your own situation. Our Firm is available to assist you.
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The anticipation for the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges – the lead case before the court about same-sex couples’ marriage rights – is high.
I know because people are asking me when the decision is coming down by every possible means of communication.
The questions at issue – debated out at oral arguments in April – are important: Can states ban same-sex couples from marrying, and can they refuse to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages granted elsewhere?
So, to help everyone avoid the Twitter direct messages, Facebook messages, and texts, here is what we know – and don’t know.
Early on, the questions started out nicely enough:
The answer to that is that we do not know. The Supreme Court, unlike some courts, does not give advance notice of what decisions are coming on what days. Instead, we only know – going into a given day – that the Supreme Court plans to issue one or more decisions on that day.
As SCOTUSblog puts it for this week’s remaining opinion day: “We expect one or more opinions at 10 a.m. on Thursday.”
The court generally issues all decisions for the term before the Fourth of July holiday, and usually by the end of June. However, if the court starts releasing the remaining 17 decisions slowly, expect rumors about “going into July” to begin in earnest. (Although rumors of going into July happen not irregularly, this has not actually happened since 1996.)
Beyond that, what else do we know?
It is true that the court saves some of its biggest cases for last – as detailed, statistically, in a recent law review article.
As such, expect marriage and the case challenging the availability of Obamacare subsidies to those purchasing insurance on the federal exchange to come toward the very end of the term. More than that, it seems most likely that the marriage cases – for which the justices released the audio on the same day as the arguments were held, the only case this term for which they did that – will come on the last day of decisions.
With 17 cases remaining for decision, many expect that – in addition to having decisions the week of June 22 – the court will finish issuing its decisions this term in the week of June 29.
That said, we don’t know that! The justices could announce decisions in five cases tomorrow, for example, and then announce that, in addition to June 22, that there will be decisions issued on two other days next week. They could then issue four decisions each day – or five on Monday, four on another day, and three on the last day – and be done with it. We don’t know!
Which brings us to the next issue: The court’s practice of “adding” decision days. At the start of this month, the Supreme Court’s calendar only had listed decision days on the Mondays of the month.
The court, however, regularly adds decision days to the weeks in June – and it has done so for this week, with Thursday.
But, that “unexpected” addition of the day – the Supreme Court’s website merely says, “The Supreme Court has added a non-argument session for the announcement of opinions on Thursday, June 18, 2015, at 10 a.m.” – has led to confusion and speculation for those unaware of the court’s general practice of adding days in June.
Starting Wednesday, though, tensions rose:
Yes, I have. So many times. And it is silly.
Here, for example, is the Supreme Court’s schedule for last June – which, like this year’s schedule, initially only had Monday decision days listed.
The Supreme Court added a decision day this week because there are 17 cases it has to get out the door before the justices can leave for summer vacation and because there are more opinions ready to hand down.
Despite this, we had reached a fever pitch by this evening:
Fine, you’ve worn me down.
Based on the Supreme Court’s past practice, in addition to this Thursday, we likely will have two or three days of opinions this coming week: June 22 and possibly June 23 or 24 and likely June 25. Then, if there are still cases remaining, we also will have opinions the next Monday, June 29, and possibly June 30. And, because we don’t know anything for certain: We could go into July if things are moving slowly.
With 17 cases remaining, and with the marriage cases being a good pick for the biggest case of the term – and, subsequently, being handed down on the last day of decisions, it is most likely that the marriage cases will come down June 25, 29, or 30.
THIS IS THE SUPREME COURT AND THE JUSTICES WILL DO WHATEVER THEY WANT.
And yet, the questions won’t stop:
But, now you know everything that I know about this – so, breathe, and follow me on Twitter – where I’ll be tweeting about decisions at 10 a.m. Thursday (and any other upcoming decision days) from the Supreme Court.
Governor Hogan has allowed two bills impacting the LGBT community in Maryland to become law: Senate Bill 413/House Bill 838, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan and Delegate Terri Hill, will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in insurance coverage for infertility. Read the frequently asked questions and answers here. Senate Bill 743/House Bill 862, sponsored by Senator Susan Lee and Delegate David Moon allows transgender Marylanders to request a new birth certificate with an updated gender marker when their health care practitioner attests the appropriate treatment has occurred. (Taken from information provided by Equality Maryland)
Zavos Juncker Law Group PLLC and Rainbow Families DC Presents:
July 11, 2015 – Come Learn About the Impact of the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling on Your Family
What does the decision mean for LGBT-headed families & prospective LGBT parents?
What issues does it resolve? What questions remain unanswered? What should you do in response to the ruling?
When: Saturday, July 11, 2015 – 3-5 PM
Where: Wisconsin Place Community Rec Center, 5311 Friendship Blvd., Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Join Rainbow Families DC and Michele Zavos of the Zavos Juncker Law Group on Saturday, July 11 from 3-5 PM in the large conference room at the Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center, 5311 Friendship Boulevard, Chevy Chase, MD where Michele will discuss these questions. Learn more about the ruling’s impact on LGBT-headed families and prospective LGBT parents. Michele is a long-time LGBT advocate in the Washington metropolitan area who has worked for over 30 years to be sure our families are legally protected.