Record Online: Thousands of same-sex New York couples have wed since July, when the state became the sixth and largest to legally allow such unions. The change means that these couples are no longer required to pay state taxes on domestic partnership benefits, will gain access to workers' compensation benefits, can bring wrongful-death lawsuits on behalf of a spouse, and can file joint state tax returns.
Equality fight goes on
However, the fight for equality continues. Same-sex marriages are specifically repudiated at the federal level through the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. This has significant repercussions on the estate planning needs of married same-sex couples. These couples cannot file joint tax returns or joint bankruptcy petitions. Upon the death of one spouse, the other cannot inherit veterans benefits or Social Security benefits. Also, property passing to a surviving spouse is subject to federal estate taxes. It is estimated that married same-sex couples will still be denied more than 1,000 federal benefits automatically given to heterosexual married couples. In addition, surviving same-sex spouses are no longer subject to New York estate taxes on assets they receive from their partners at death.