First, heartfelt congratulations! This is amazing and historic because couples from any state can get married in California. Take this one-question poll if you plan to marry in California.
But now a reminder of the work ahead and important information for out of state couples marrying in California.
We all know that because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), all of the happy couples married in California will be perfect strangers in the eyes of the federal government:
- They won't get social security benefits if a spouse dies.
- They can't file federal taxes together.
- They can't sponsor a same-sex spouse for immigration.
- They can't transfer their estate tax free to their spouse upon death.
- And they won't have access to more than 1,000 protections for their love and commitment.
If you are from New York state and marry in California, Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Belgium, or the Netherlands... congratulations! New York will acknowledge your marriage.
For the rest of us... nothing! It's back home as legal strangers (talk about a short honeymoon!).
Can we get rid of the Defense of Marriage Act? YES! We can do it if we elect a Democrat as president. It is clear that if we elect John McCain, DOMA will not be reversed.
DOMA has two main sections: One that defines marriage, for the federal government purposes, as the union between one man and one woman. Overturning this section means that your marriage should be mostly recognized by the federal government (but there are exceptions since some federal benefits depend on your marriage to be valid where you live).
The other main section of DOMA allows states not to recognize same sex marriages performed elsewhere. So when this section is repealed, will your marriage be recognized in your state?
The answer is not easy and it depends on many circumstances. Check a detailed analysis of the effects of the Defense of Marriage Act by Professor Tobias Wolff of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
Eventually, we need the US Supreme Court to make marriage equality uniform across the states and the federal government. This is why it is so important to win the presidency this year as several judges are likely to retire.
But whatever the legalities in other states or at the federal government, this is the time to enjoy your love and commitment that nobody can take from you.
Congratulations on your marriage!