But now that they could also be married in the eyes of the federal government, that might change the equation. And it’s an equation with many parts. The ruling that struck down the federal law known as DOMA and subsequent regulations issued by the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies mean that same-sex spouses are now eligible for many benefits they were previously denied.
But they also might get hit hard by taxes if marrying and filing jointly increases their tax brackets. That’s what McKinnon and Carper hope to sort through in the next few weeks.
If they get married, “it would really be for financial reasons, as unromantic as it sounds,” said Carper, sitting at a kitchen table next to a window that overlooks their flower and vegetable gardens.
Not everyone takes that analytic approach.
For many couples, the romantic impulse took over, but when financial planner Tom Tillery’s clients called saying they were rushing off to where it was legal to marry, he said he held up a stop sign.
“For our gay and lesbian clients, it was heartbreaking,” said Tillery, who has clients around the country, recounting a conversation with a client who called excitedly after the ruling to say she was flying to New York to marry her partner.
Tillery and others recommend what Carper and McKinnon are doing — taking the time required to sort out the financial implications. After the ruling “the biggest complication was laying myself in front of the train of my clients wanting to run off and get married,” said Tillery, whose firm, Paraklete Financial, is based in Kennesaw, Ga.
The federal government has been relatively quick to issue rulings based on the decision. The Office of Personnel Management and the Pentagon extended benefits to the spouses married where same-sex unions are legal, while the Department of Homeland Security recognized such marriages as the basis for immigration. The Defense Department also extended 10 days’ leave to members of the military planning to marry, to make it easier to travel to where same-sex marriages may be legally celebrated.
On Aug. 29, the IRS followed in those agencies’ footsteps, ruling that same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.
“This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said.
On Sept. 4, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. advised congressional leaders that President Obama had directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages despite a federal statute that limits spousal benefits to spouses of the opposite sex.