Financial downsides to the victorious win of same-sex marriages

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court gave a landmark decision in favor of same-sex couples. The court delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry irrespective of where they lived. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the decision was based on the fundamental right to marry and the equality that must be afforded to the gay Americans:

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”

He was joined in the ruling by the justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14–556 (U.S. 06/26/2015).[1]

However, this victory brings with it potential financial downsides. Industry experts have been quick to note a few of them. According to Professor Lee-Ford Tritt from University of Florida Levin College of Law, same-sex married couples with children who could earlier file separately as single and as head of household, will possibly see increased taxes as a result of joint filings. The decision will also have an adverse impact on the adoption credit of such couples. Tritt also noted that some of these married couples may also find that the once tax-free social security benefits are now taxable due to the hitting income thresholds.

Alan Gassman, an attorney with Gassman, Crotty & Denicolo, in Clearwater, Florida is of the opinion that:

“The day has arrived for same-sex couples to do the math and make the hard decisions on whether to take advantage of this new opportunity in the face of well over a dozen important legal, tax, social benefit and other planning factors. There will doubtlessly be many errors made, and estate plans distorted by well-meaning new married couples who thought with their hearts, but not with their accountants, lawyers and wallets.”

Tritt also focused on some serious unresolved issues likely to affect the finances of the married couples. These included unconstitutionality of the bans on same-sex marriages, as they are “void ab initio”. This could create legal issues within the states, concerning the effective dates – either retroactive or prospective – of the marriages having taken place before the Supreme Court decision when the couples lived in non-recognition states. He stated that “[i]f these bans on same-sex marriage ‘never existed,’ these spouses, or their estates, might be entitled to these rights retroactively.” He further observed that these marriages with the associated rights, might be applied prospectively and not retrospectively, as “[t]here is ample legal precedent that will provide sound jurisprudential arguments for all sides of these forthcoming legal debates,” which remain open and “are yet to be determined.”


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