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The Legal Meaning of Marriage: 12 Benefits Same-Sex Married Couples Now Receive

By Lindsay N. Greene, Esq. and Ruben Laboy, Jr., Esq.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marriage. As reported in The New York Times, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy defined marriage as a “keystone of our social order.” The Supreme Court’s decision, he explained, provided same-sex married couples with “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

The decision has been both wildly celebrated by its proponents and fiercely attacked by its critics. To better understand what marriage means in the eyes of the court, Lindsay Greene and Ruben Laboy – attorneys with DSK Law, an Orlando-based LegalShield provider law firm – offer the following list of the benefits same-sex married couples can now receive that were previously denied to them. They now have the right to:

1. File joint tax returns;

2. Inherit a share of their spouse’s estate;

3. Receive Social Security/survivorship benefits;

4. Receive family rates for various types of insurance;

5. Reside in neighborhoods restricted to “families only”;

6. Bring suit for wrongful death of a spouse against a third party;

7. Acquire property as tenancy by the entirety; (in many states, such as Florida, this provides greater protection from creditors that may have a claim);

8. Be entitled to retirement benefits from private pensions and other retirement programs (e.g., 401K);

9. Be entitled to file joint bankruptcy petitions;

10. Be entitled to file joint guardianship petitions of minor and incompetent persons;

11. Be able to adopt children; and

12. Be able to conduct estate planning and prenuptial agreements.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision, same-sex couples married in a state that recognized their marriage could not get divorced if they moved to a state that did not recognize same-sex marriage. This represented a significant consequence on their families and their net worth, further complicating their relationship issues. Now, such couples are entitled to receive an equitable distribution of property in a divorce and to receive alimony, in accordance with state laws.

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