June 5, 2014
On June 20, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a memorandum to President Obama detailing the progress that has been made in implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision of June 26, 2013. That decision struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prevented same-sex married couples from being able to access the 1,138 federal laws that pertain to marriage. During the past year, GLAD and other LGBT organizations have been working closely with the Department of Justice and the various federal agencies advocating that the decision be implemented in a way that maximizes the number of same-sex married couples who are eligible for these federal benefits. The LGBT organizations have advocated that a “place of celebration” rule be used to determine eligibility for these benefits, which means that as long as a couple legally married they would be eligible for federal benefits regardless of where they reside. With a few important exceptions, this has largely been achieved.
As Attorney General Holder states in his memo:
The impact of the Windsor decision, and the government-wide implementation efforts, cannot be overstated. The Internal Revenue Service permits same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. The Department of Defense permits same-sex spouses of military service members to receive the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Our immigration system permits citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor same-sex spouses for immigration benefits. Same-sex spouses of federal employees are eligible for health insurance and other benefits. And the Department of Justice will recognize the validity of same-sex marriages in courtrooms and proceedings in which its lawyers appear to the greatest extent permitted under the law.
However, two agencies—the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—are prohibited by federal statute from adopting a “place of celebration” rule for certain programs of critical importance to millions of Americans. GLAD and other LGBT organizations continue to work with the federal government and Congress to try to change the policies that prevent some married same-sex couples from having access to these important federal protections.
Even though it is now over a year since the Windsor decision, we are still waiting for guidance from some federal programs. GLAD will continue to work with the federal government until all these issues are addressed.
To see Attorney General Holder’s complete memorandum to President Obama click here.