GREAT PROGRESS, AND NEW LEGAL
CHALLENGES FOR LGBT COUPLES IN 2013
This year has been remarkable in a number of ways for New York’s LGBT community. As 2013 draws to a close, LGBT couples in New York can benefit from both a look back at the dramatic legal changes over the past 12 months, and some insight into the next round of legal challenges to be overcome in the New Year.
Just four years ago, gay marriage couldn’t pass in New York; now, even DOMA has crumbled
In 2009, a same-sex marriage bill failed by a substantial majority in the New York Senate. It only took two more years to convince New York lawmakers to pass a gay marriage bill. By this year, New York had not only become a hub for same-sex couples looking to marry in a jurisdiction that permitted gay marriage, it had also set a meaningful example for the five other states that legalized gay marriage in 2013.
Of course, the growing reach of marriage equality was not the only event of legal significance for LGBT couples in 2013. Amidst great fanfare, portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act were struck down in June by the Supreme Court, forcing the federal government to grant certain benefits to same-sex couples who have been legally married under the laws of a state. In fact, Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case, has just been named to the editorial shortlist for person of the year in Time magazine. Ms. Windsor shares the shortlist with five other candidates, including Pope Francis and Edward Snowden.
Tax, family law and estate planning all legal areas affected by 2013 changes
The advances in LGBT rights in 2013 are certainly victories, but they also bring about certain challenges. For instance, gay couples face new taxation standards; after filing as “single” over the past three years, same-sex spouses may now file amended tax returns for those years to reflect their marital status. In 2014, same-sex spouses will even be required to list themselves as “married” on federal tax returns.
Family law issues also remain a legal speed bump for many same-sex couples. While New York’s recognition of same-sex marriage grants gay couples unprecedented rights in the family law court process, the patchwork of jurisdictions that do and do not recognize gay marriage can still mean complex legal entanglements for same-sex spouses who move or seek a divorce after one of them has relocated.
More novel issues stem from the keen legal ramifications of DOMA’s downfall in the estate planning context. For example, married same-sex partners may now use the marital deduction, transferring property to each other during life or at death without the transfer being subject to any gift or estate tax; they will also be able to take advantage of portability of the estate tax exemption between married partners. If they have not already done so, all same-sex spouses should revisit their estate planning documents now that DOMA is no longer the law of the land.
Talk to a New York attorney about your same-sex marital legal issue
The last 12 months have been a time of great change and great progress. While same-sex couples will never be on exactly the same footing as heterosexual spouses until all barriers to marriage equality are removed nationwide, the rapid advancements achieved in 2013 are nonetheless something to be celebrated. If you need help addressing a tax, family law, estate planning or any other type of legal issue in light of the wave of recent changes, get in touch with a New York attorney today.