Williams Institute analyzes the impact of DoMA

by on July 20, 2011  •  In Congress, DoMA

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Policy at UCLA just published this excellent report analyzing the demographic, economic, legal and social effects of DoMA. The report was requested by staff of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in anticipation of its hearing today on S. 598, a bill that would effectively repeal Section 3 of DoMA by providing recognition under federal law for marriages that were valid where they were entered into.

The legal effects of DoMA include:

·        Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Benefits.  Nearly 430,000 same-sex partners remain barred from taking leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the FMLA, regardless of whether they marry.

·        Benefits for Spouses of Federal Employees.  The same-sex partners of more than 30,000 federal employees are ineligible for the benefits available to different-sex married spouses.

·        Veteran Partner Benefits.  Same-sex partners of nearly 68,000 veterans are barred from a variety of benefits including pensions, educational assistance, and vocational training available to different-sex spouses.

·        Taxation of Employee Health Benefits for a Same-Sex Spouse.  When private employers offer health insurance to same-sex spouses and domestic partners, because of DOMA, federal law taxes these benefits. Approximately 41,000 employees with a same-sex spouse or domestic partner pay, on average, over $1,000 more in taxes per year than an employee receiving the same health benefits for a different-sex spouse.

·        Spousal Impoverishment Protections for Medicaid Long Term Care (LTC).  Medicaid LTC beneficiaries may have to use some of their spouse’s income and assets to pay for LTC. Federal law require states to allow different-sex spouses to retain income and assets to protect them from destitution. However, about 1,700-3,000 individuals whose same-sex partners receive Medicaid-financed LTC are not protected by these spousal impoverishment provisions.

·        Estate Tax.  Over the next two years, members of same-sex couples who will pay the federal estate tax, will pay, on average, more than $4 million more than a survivor of a different-sex spouse because they do not qualify for the federal estate tax spousal exemption.

·        Social Security Survivor Benefits.  Unlike different-sex spouses, same-sex spouses cannot continue receiving their partner’s social security payments after their partner’s death. This results in a loss, on average, of more than $5,700 for a same-sex partner that receives lower social security payments than the deceased spouse.  

·        Immigration for Bi-National Couples.  Nearly 26,000 same-sex couples in the United States are bi-national couples who could be forced to separate because they cannot participate in green-card and accelerated citizenship mechanisms offered to non-citizen spouses of American citizens.  

[Disclaimer: I'm listed as one of the authors, but it's a generous credit. The document is a compilation of the work of many people.]

You can watch the full hearing here.


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