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The Supreme Court’s rulings regarding the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor and regarding California’s Proposition 8 inHollingsworth v. Perry have important social, economic and legal consequences for the nation’s approximately 650,000 same-sex couples living in shared households, of which an estimated 114,100 are legally married. It is estimated that, over the next three years, 37,000 California same-sex couples are likely to marry and the state economy will gain approximately $492 million in new business revenue from same-sex couples’ weddings.
As a result of the court’s ruling in Perry, more people will live in states where same-sex couples can marry than ever before. Prior to today’s ruling, 18 percent of the entire U.S. population and 22 percent of same-sex couples lived in the 12 states, and the District of Columbia, where same-sex couples can legally marry. By adding California, 30 percent of the entire U.S. population and 37 percent of same-sex couples will now live in states that extend marriage to same-sex couples.
For couples who have entered into legal marriages that are recognized by the federal government, the Windsor ruling could have important consequences across a range of issues:
• IMMIGRATION: An estimated 24,700 same-sex couples are bi-national (one US citizen and one non-citizen) along with 11,700 same-sex couples comprised of two non-citizens. The Windsor DOMA ruling has opened the door for a citizen to obtain permanent residence for a non-citizen, same-sex spouse, and expedited citizenship for a resident, same-sex spouse.
• SOCIAL SECURITY: Surviving spouses of same-sex couples could gain access to spousal social security benefits, which could add up to more than $5,700 to the monthly income of the surviving spouse.
• HEALTH CARE: Same-sex couples working in the private sector pay, on average, $1,000 more than different-sex couples in taxes for employer-sponsored healthcare. Same-sex spouses in federally recognized marriages might no longer be subject to this additional tax burden.
• FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: Same-sex spouses of federal employees could be eligible for employee benefits that are currently provided to employees with different-sex spouses.
• ESTATE TAX: In situations similar to that of plaintiff Edith Windsor in the DOMA case, same-sex spouses who are affected by the estate tax would no longer be subject to a greater federal estate tax burden upon the death of a spouse than similarly-situated different-sex married couples face.