Last June the Supreme Court decided two cases. One struck down the federal law called DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That decision granted federal marriage rights to same sex couples residing in states that recognize the marriage. The other upheld the right of same sex couples in California to be legally married. In the months that have passed since those historic decisions, thousands of California couples have celebrated their long awaited marriages.
There are more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities under Federal and state laws that come into being when a couple is legally married, and that is one reason people fought so hard for marriage equality. Immigration is a great example. Now a citizen spouse of a same sex couple can obtain a spousal or fiance visa to bring their loved one to this country, just as heterosexual couples have long been able to do. And there are benefits relating to Social Security, Medicare, pension and retirement accounts, capital gains taxes, estate and gift taxes, veterans benefits, military spouse benefits, and even property tax re-assessment.
Along with all of the many pros, there are a few possible cons for both straight and same sex couples contemplating marriage. For example, if both spouses are high earners they might become subject to the “marriage penalty” resulting in a higher tax liability. But, if same sex couples are like their heterosexual counterparts, most won’t do a tax analysis before getting married.
Alma Soongi Beck, a San Francisco attorney and highly regarded thought leader on these subjects has worked with same sex and unmarried couples for over a decade. She poses a philosophical question for couples to ponder “How much should you consider income taxes as a reason to marry or not?” She writes and speaks widely, giving generously of her time and expertise to educate both the lay public and legal professionals. I heard her speak recently and she graciously granted me permission to post one of her articles on this site. Check out her clear and comprehensive article on Who Should Get Married?