Marriage Equality

Ready To Tie The Knot?

The Supreme Court's landmark 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage means that gay and lesbian couples in Georgia need no longer be legal strangers. Here are a few relevant topics that may be of interest for new families and couples. This information has been collected to help private individuals, couples and businesses navigate personal and legal questions that may arise. It is important to understand what this ruling does and does not mean for you, your family and your business. Please read through the information and contact us if you have questions on how we may assist you with this transition.

Same Sex-Marriage Information

Marriage And The Planning Process
It is important for couples to consider when they anticipate getting married, especially if they are intending to apply for certain federally based benefits such as veterans pensions or health benefits, Social Security or other retirement programs using their spouse's work record. These couples need to be aware that there may be set requirements in place regarding the duration of the marriage to qualify.

Spousal Privilege And Same-Sex Marriage
In 2014, the U.S. attorney general announced a policy that was to honor those privileges between same-sex marriages. However, decisions by the Supreme Court to extend federal marital benefits to same-sex partners by definition officially require that the rules regarding marital privilege and disclosure also be extended to same-sex married couples. The rules of privilege describe a set of guidelines that can offer people protection from having to reveal certain kinds of information in certain kinds of intimate relationships.

Marriage Equality And Income Taxes
Filing a joint tax return is one of the new privileges same-sex couples can enjoy, should they choose to marry and file jointly. If you decide to marry, it will affect your filing status. However, each circumstance is different and in this case, it will depend highly on each couple's specific situation.

Gay Couples And Adoption
For couples who are considering starting a family as well as those who already have children, it is crucial to be as well-informed as possible on family laws. The Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage throughout the nation has had a profound impact on family law. Families need to keep up to date on the changes as they have a strong influence over the course of their daily lives.

Marriage Equality And Retirement Benefits
It is important review the details of your retirement plan thoroughly and confer with an experienced attorney. A complete audit before you retire will ensure that you and your spouse receive exactly the benefits you are expecting.

Social Security Benefits
Now that gay marriage is federally recognized and all states are required to give recognition to couples, the previously ambiguous residence policy language should no longer be a barrier for same-sex spouses who wish to apply for benefits. However, it is as important as ever to receive proper counseling to make sure you get the benefits you expect.

Veterans Benefits And Same-Sex Marriage
Since the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a statement affirming that it would uphold the decision accordingly when processing veterans spousal benefits. Previously, the department had been following a guideline that recognized the validity of couples' marriages based on whether they were considered valid by the local state government where the couple lived when applying for benefits. The VA provides a wide range of benefits and services that are dependent on one's marital status or survivor status.

Same-Sex Marriage And U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence
A new guide was released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the updated policy changes. The statement made clear that noncitizens in same-sex relationships with U.S. citizens or permanent residents would be recognized equally under the rules and policies of the department for consideration for marriage-based visas or green cards. The application process has already been completed for some couples.

Employment Discrimination
Without a specific federal law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination or gender identity discrimination, many people who wish to get married may still hesitate regardless of the Supreme Court ruling as to not risk losing their employment if they have reason to believe their employer may respond by terminating them after marrying their same-sex partner. Even without a specific federal statute, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated clearly that dismissing a person based on his or her same-sex marriage is considered sex discrimination and a violation of federal law.

Housing Discrimination
From a practical standpoint, when assessing a prospective tenant, most property owners consider the ability to afford the lease payment, a positive and consistent rental history, and references that indicate a tenant's ability to care for the property higher priority than the gender of who the tenant is in a relationship with. Nevertheless, it is true that housing discrimination is not uncommon and must be taken into consideration by same-sex couples who are considering getting married if they believe that it could adversely affect their housing situation.
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