Right to Marriage
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges the United States 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 Oyewale and Ruben Laboy, lawyers with de Beaubien, Knight, Simmons, Mantzaris & Neal, LLP, 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:
- File joint tax returns.
- Inherit a share of their spouse’s estate.
- Receive Social Security/survivorship benefits.
- Receive family rates for various types of insurance.
- Reside in neighborhoods restricted to “families only.”
- Bring suit for wrongful death of a spouse against a third party.
- Acquire property as tenancy by the entirety (in many states, such as Florida, this provides greater protection from creditors that may have a claim).
- Be entitled to retirement benefits from private pensions and other retirement programs (e.g., 401K).
- Be entitled to file joint bankruptcy petitions.
- Be entitled to file joint guardianship petitions of minor and incompetent persons.
- Be able to conduct estate planning and prenuptial agreements.
Equal Protection Under the Law
Furthermore, Oyewale says, “While divorce may not be considered a positive aspect of our lives, one should consider the consequences a person may experience when a long-term relationship ends that was not considered a legal marriage.” For example, 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.
“At LegalShield we believe every American deserves equal protection under the law regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation,” says Jeff Bell, CEO of LegalShield. “We are proud to see our country advance the cause of equal justice and equal dignity for all of its citizens.”
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