Idaho ACLU Executive Director Monica Hopkins says the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, leaves open one question that could affect Idaho: What about same-sex couples who legally married in another state, but now reside in Idaho? Would they be eligible for federal benefits like family medical leave and Social Security survivor benefits?
“There are 1,100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference,” said Hopkins, whose organization brought the DOMA case on behalf of Edie Windsor, an elderly New York resident who was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after her same-sex spouse passed away, though the two had been legally married in Canada and the state of New York recognized the Canadian marriage. Windsor wouldn’t have owed any estate tax if she’d been married to a man.
“Now what we have to do is kind of untangle what this DOMA decision means,” Hopkins said, “because it has federal applications, but what does it mean for Idahoans who were legally married in a state that legally recognizes those marriages, but reside in Idaho?” Hopkins said she’ll be participating in a conference call mid-day today with the ACLU’s national attorneys to address that and other questions about the decisions.
David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University and a constitutional scholar, said, “I think the opinion is unclear on the issue of whether same-sex couples married in another state who move to Idaho are going to be entitled to some federal benefits. I think there’s room in the opinion to draw the conclusion that they will be entitled to some benefits, including (federal) tax filings, but it’s not immediately clear.”
Adler said, “The reasoning in the opinion employed by Justice Kennedy is going to have national implications for the discussion and debate on gay rights and same-sex marriage as it goes forward in this country.” He added, “While the immediate opinion does uphold the right of states to determine the status of marriage, the reasoning and the language of that opinion will be used to promote same-sex marriage across the country.”