United States Attorney General Eric Holder has announced policy changes in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the policy changes, which will treat same sex marriages equal to opposite sex marriages for purposes of federal benefits, include the following:
In a new policy memo, the department will spell out the rights of same-sex couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses, even if their marriages are not recognized in the state where the couples live.
Under the policy, federal inmates in same-sex marriages will also be entitled to the same rights and privileges as inmates in opposite-sex marriages, including visitation by a spouse, escorted trips to attend a spouse’s funeral, correspondence with a spouse, and compassionate release or reduction in sentence based on the incapacitation of an inmate’s spouse.
In addition, an inmate in a same-sex marriage can be furloughed to be present during a crisis involving a spouse. In bankruptcy cases, same-sex married couples will be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly. Domestic support obligations will include debts, such as alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse. Certain debts to same-sex spouses or former spouses should be excepted from discharge.
The Social Security Administration will pay death benefits to survivors of a same-sex marriage. The Department of Homeland Security will treat same-sex spouses equally for the purposes of obtaining a green card if the spouse is a foreign national. And the Internal Revenue Service has begun treating same-sex marriages equally for tax-filing purposes.
As U.S. v. Windsor did not strike down versions of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) enacted in many states, these policy changes only apply to Florida couples whose marriage was performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes same sex marriages. These changes do not apply to couples who have only had a commitment or “marriage” ceremony in Florida, as section 741.211 of the Florida Statutes still defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the term ‘spouse’ applies only to a member of such a union.”
Marriage equality seems to be well on its way on the federal level, but it still has some ways to go in this state.
If you have questions regarding your Florida family law rights and you wish to speak with a Tampa Bay family law attorney, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.