Same sex couples to navigate many new benefits

After the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act, same sex couples are finding benefits not previously offered.
November 16, 2013 3:00:36 PM PST
The Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act did more than legalize gay marriage. It gave same sex couples a sense of financial security they didn't have before the court's ruling. 7 On Your Side takes a look at this.

For the first time, same sex couples have to navigate applying for federal benefits that up to now were not available to them. However, no one is complaining about all this extra work.

Sara Taylor and Sherrie Holmes of Novato were two of the lucky ones. The couple was among those who got married in 2008 after the state Supreme Court overturned the ban on gay marriage.

"I actually never really thought that we would have a chance to get legally married in our lifetime," said Holmes.

Five months later, California voters banned gay marriage again by passing Proposition 8. But the courts allowed Holmes and Taylor's marriage and all the others to stand. Five years later, the striking down of the Defense Of Marriage Act makes all those marriages complete.

"We are federally married everywhere now and that's such a different thing because I think before, when we were just married in California, there was still a stigma," said Taylor.

Not only has the stigma been lifted, the couple now has new financial benefits never before possible. Seth Kilbourn is executive director of Openhouse -- an advocacy group for gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender seniors.

"That translates often times into more financial security because the laws were designed to hold families together, to keep a safety net underneath them," said Kilbourn.

Social security, tax and veterans benefits previously reserved only for heterosexual couples are now available to same sex couples. In all, there are an estimated 1,100 new benefits available to same sex couples.

"It's amazing emotional that we came into a time when we never expected that would happen in our lifetime," said Taylor.

The benefits received from Social Security alone would be equivalent to a half-million-dollar life insurance policy. Social security benefits are now also available for children and spouses of retired, disabled or deceased married gay workers.

Webster Phillips is with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. He told us, "Denying benefits based on the DOMA rule was wrong and we thought that simple fairness demanded that it be repealed."

"I feel like this is a time of celebration and I also feel it's about time," said Holmes.

One of the most significant benefits being offered now to same sex married couples is expanded social security benefits.

If you have questions about these new benefits, send your name, phone number and question to info@openhouse-SF.org and they will refer you to the right organization to get your answer.

Click here for examples of how certain situations will be handled with married LGBT couples.


Load Comments