The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional will no doubt be remembered as a major civil liberties event in the history of our country.
Because of U.S. v. Windsor, married gay couples will now enjoy the same tax benefits as married heterosexual couples. Married gay couples can file joint federal tax returns, regardless of their state of residence. And at the heart of the Windsor case, married gay spouses will enjoy the same rights and privileges concerning estate planning as their straight peers.
Windsor will lead to more changes than estate and tax law. All married couples will now be able to enjoy the same level of advantages – eligibility for health care benefits, ability to contribute to an IRA for a non-working spouse, even making higher donations to charity because of a combined income leading to a higher level of charitable giving deductions.
In the months and years to come, the ramifications of Windsor will be seen across the country. Married gay couples, with protecting federal law, may achieve equality in the eyes of federal, state and local municipalities. However, unmarried couples, gay or straight, will still feel the tax pinch of their unmarried status.