WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasure and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as well as the Department of Health and Human Services, have announced that same-sex marriages will now be recognized for federal income tax purposes and Medicare benefits.
The decision was announced on Thursday by the departments, advising that the conclusion was reached in light of June’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS announced that to reflect the ruling, homosexuals who are “married” in states where same-sex nuptials are legal will be recognized as couples in the eyes of the federal government. The decision applies whether the individuals live in a state that recognizes same-sex “marriage” or not–just as long as they were enjoined in a state where such unions are permissible.
The IRS noted that the ruling applies to filing status, deductions, employee benefits, child tax credits and other benefits and credits. It will not, however, apply to those whose relationships are considered a civil union or domestic partnership.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
Likewise, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Thursday that beneficiaries of those whose partners live in a nursing home can have equal Medicare coverage to stay in the same nursing home as their significant other.
“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” explained Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the announcement is one of many changes that will be occurring in the coming months in light of the Supreme Court ruling.
As previously reported, the federal ruling, issued this past June, was split 5-4, with Justice Antonin Scalia, a Roman Catholic, delivering a lengthy and sharp dissent.
“When the court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with ‘whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter,’” he wrote. “Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it ‘demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.’”
“As far as this court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe [to drop],” Scalia said. “[T]he Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better. I dissent.”