Married same-sex couples in Minnesota will gain tax, pension, other benefitsMinnesota same-sex couples who can wed beginning in a little more than a month will receive the same benefits as other married couples because of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
By: Don Davis, Forum News Service
ST. PAUL — Minnesota same-sex couples who can wed beginning in a little more than a month will receive the same benefits as other married couples because of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Among the most important of those benefits is allowing same-sex couples to file joint income tax returns to receive a lower tax rate and Social Security to be collected based on a spouse’s income, said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. Federal pensions, including those from the military, also will benefit gay spouses, he said.
“It’s incredibly good news,” said Gary Anderson of Duluth, a community organizer who helped defeat last November’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and is now a community organizer for OutFront Minnesota.
“On a very practical level, it means better protection for family. A surviving spouse is now entitled to Social Security benefits from a same-sex partner. … It means benefits for kids and families that otherwise wouldn’t have been eligible.”
By striking down DOMA, the court cleared the way for legally married couples to claim more than 1,100 federal benefits, rights and burdens linked to marriage status.
The majority of justices decided that marriage is among issues that states alone may regulate. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the court’s swing vote in close decisions, said the law imposed “a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states.”
Groups opposing gay marriage said the formal Supreme Court ruling also stopped short of mandating that states allow gay marriage.
“The Court’s rulings today affirm that the conversation about marriage can continue among citizens in the states. Today, the Court found no constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” said John Helmberger, chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, in a statement.
Bishop Paul Sirba of the Duluth diocese said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops summed up the situation well.
“The Court got it wrong,” he said in a statement. “Representatives of the diocese have consistently said what we know, through reason and through divine revelation, that marriage is a permanent union between one man and one woman, uniting a mother and a father with any children produced by their union. Government has a duty to protect this institution, but neither the right nor the authority to attempt to redefine it. We will continue to uphold and propose these truths in love for the good of everyone, whatever turns public opinion may take.”
The ruling follows Minnesota’s decision this spring to allow same-sex couples to wed beginning in August.
“This has been just an amazing series of events, between what’s happened in Minnesota and California and now federally,” said Sarah Perry-Spears of Duluth.
But it’s not just a moral victory, Perry-Spears noted. The decision has very practical implications for some families. She’s about to leave her job and become a stay-at-home mom. While her partner, Megan Perry-Spears, has good benefits through her job as the dean of students for the College of St. Scholastica, many gay families don’t have that luxury.
“Depending on the company or institution someone works for, this decision could help make sure that the entire family has benefits,” she said. “Let’s face it, the big thing is health care, and every family worries about that. Maybe now some won’t have to worry.”
Minnesota Democrats were thrilled with the decision, and Republicans said little.
“Our country is starting to understand that it’s not about what a family looks like: It’s about their love and commitment to one another,” said U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who represents a district north and northwest of the Twin Cities, was the rare Republican to comment on the ruling.
“Marriage was created by the hand of God,” she said. “No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”
Bachmann said governments have been undermining God’s will on the issue since 2000.
“What the court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States,” Bachmann said.
Minnesotans have been debating gay marriage for more than two years.
In May 2011, a Republican-controlled Legislature passed a measure that would have enshrined in the state Constitution a gay marriage ban. An 18-month campaign ended in November of last year with the country’s first voter defeat of such a plan.
This year, the two sides engaged in the campaign turned their attention to efforts to pass a bill to overturn existing law forbidding gay marriage. That legislative vote in May set the stage for allowing gays to marry beginning in August.
Duluth City Councilor Linda Krug said the Supreme Court decision means that things like pension and 401K benefits can transfer from one gay partner to another without issue or without being taxed.
“This is just an absolutely fabulous day. It’s what I expected them to do, but, still, I’m thrilled,” said Krug. “It brought tears to my eyes when I heard it on the radio. … Who would have thought that the love that I have would finally be validated by the federal government?”