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California Same-Sex Couples Look Forward to Federal Benefits

| June 27, 2013
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Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols, from San Francisco, outside City Hall.

Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols, from San Francisco, outside City Hall. (Photo: Deb Svoboda/KQED)

In 2011, more than 28,000 California same-sex couples reported being married, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That includes the 18,000 couples estimated to have been married in the brief time that same-sex marriage was legal in the state. Proposition 8 put an end to that, but now that Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision has effectively invalidated Prop. 8, many more same-sex marriages are sure to follow.

And another decision by the high court yesterday striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act could greatly benefit those couples financially. They can now look forward to more than 1,000 federal benefits enjoyed by their opposite-sex counterparts: tax breaks, pensions and immigration rights that are tied to marriage status.

State Assemblywoman Toni Atkins married her partner during that brief window when same-sex marriages were legal. Yesterday Atkins said she’s looking forward to the ability to file a joint federal tax return.

“I can stop checking on my state tax forms ‘married.’ And feeling like I’m lying to the federal government when I check ‘single.’

One big impact will be felt in immigration. For years, DOMA, which strictly defines marriage as between a man and a woman, has barred gay Americans from sponsoring their foreign-born partners for spousal visas. Now the high court ruling clears a path for the Obama administration to consider granting green cards to thousands of bi-national gay couples.

For San Jose couple Judy Rickard and her wife, Karin Bogliolo, they won’t have to live under the threat of deportation. Bogliolo says she’s been unable to visit her family in the United Kingdom for three years.

“My son called from Scotland and said, ‘The spare room’s ready for you, you and Judy hurry on up over there.’ And these are all the things that I can now seriously think about,” Bogliolo.

Immigration attorneys say a number of open questions remain about how the Obama administration will process green-card petitions. Some of the usual means of evaluating legitimate marriages have been unavailable to same-sex couples, like joint tax returns.

But Bolgiolo is optimistic. For the first time, she says, she’s starting to believe in the U.S. government.

NY Times video: Where same-sex couples live or even where they were married will determine whether they will now receive federal benefits

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Category: Law

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