Updated April 14, 2014

General Questions
What is the effect of the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Windsor?
What happened to the Commonwealth's case against DOMA?

Federal Recognition
If I married in Massachusetts, is the federal government required to recognize my marriage?
If I married in another state, and now live in Massachusetts, must the federal government recognize my marriage?
If I do not live in a state that recognizes my marriage, will the federal government recognize my marriage?

Health Care
I am part of a married same-sex couple in Massachusetts.  Can I add my spouse to my health insurance plan?
Will my MassHealth coverage be affected by the Supreme Court's decision?
Can I include my spouse's expenses on my Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan?

Tax Consequences
Am I entitled to an income tax refund as a result of the Windsor ruling?
Can I get a refund for the additional taxes I have already paid in 2013 in connection with my spouse's health insurance coverage?
Since the Windsor decision came in the middle of the year, how am I supposed to file my federal income taxes for 2013 in 2014?

Additional Questions
Is my spouse entitled to an adjustment of immigration status now that DOMA has been struck down?
If I cannot find the answer to my DOMA-related question here, what should I do?

 

What is the effect of the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Windsor?

The Supreme Court has ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  As a result, the federal government generally will recognize marriages valid under state law, including those between same-sex couples. 

The Windsor decision has important practical ramifications for married couples and their families in Massachusetts.  DOMA denied married same-sex couples access to hundreds of federal rights, responsibilities, and benefits that are available to all other married couples, including, for example, filing a federal income tax returns as married, Social Security spousal and survivor benefits, leave from work to care for a sick spouse pursuant to the Family & Medical Leave Act, flexible spending account for medical expenses of spouse, and gift tax and estate tax exemptions for a spouse.  These rights and protections affect all facets of life from the workplace to healthcare to retirement.

The Supreme Court’s decision ensures that federal benefits and protections will now be extended to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts on the same terms as for all other married couples in the Commonwealth.

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What happened to the Commonwealth's case against DOMA?

At Attorney General Coakley’s direction, in 2009, Massachusetts became the first, and only, state in the nation to file a complaint alleging that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution by interfering with Massachusetts’s sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents, and by requiring the state to choose between unlawfully discriminating against its residents and foregoing federal funds.  Together with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which had filed a companion equal protection challenge to DOMA on behalf of individuals harmed by DOMA’s discrimination against their marriages, AG Coakley argued before the U.S. District Court that there was no legitimate basis for DOMA.  The District Court decisions in both cases, issued on July 8, 2010, were the first in the country to hold DOMA unconstitutional. ( District Court Decision: Commonwealth v U.S. Dep't of HHS (2010) pdf format of    District Court Decision: Commonwealth v U.S. HHS (2010)  )  

After the United States appealed the District Court’s decisions, the Department of Justice announced in February 2011 that it would cease defending DOMA against equal protection challenges.  Subsequently, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives (BLAG) intervened in the consolidated appeal to continue DOMA’s defense.  On May 31, 2012, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the District Court’s rulings, and became the first appellate court to strike DOMA down.

The Department of Justice and BLAG sought to have the Supreme Court review the First Circuit decision, as well as later court decisions in DOMA cases filed after Massachusetts and GLAD prevailed in district court. The Supreme Court, however, chose the Windsor case to determine the constitutionality of DOMA, holding the Commonwealth’s case and GLAD’s case while Windsor was pending.  As a result of the decision in Windsor, the Commonwealth’s and GLAD’s victory in the First Circuit has been upheld and married same-sex couples in Massachusetts will now be treated as the married people they are by the federal government. 

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If I married in Massachusetts, is the federal government required to recognize my marriage?

Marriages of same-sex couples will be recognized by the federal government, subject to certain limitations.  In certain circumstances, federal law looks to whether your state of residence considers you lawfully married.  If you were validly married in Massachusetts, and currently reside in Massachusetts, the federal government will recognize your marriage in virtually all circumstances.  If you currently live in a state that does not recognize your marriage, the federal government likely will recognize your marriage with respect to programs, rights, and protections. More information can be found at the relevant federal agency's website.

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If I married in another state, and now live in Massachusetts, must the federal government recognize my marriage?

If your marriage was licensed in another state or country, and you now reside in Massachusetts, your marriage will be recognized by the federal government in virtually all circumstances.

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If I do not live in a state that recognizes my marriage, will the federal government recognize my marriage?

The Obama Administration has issued policies and statements generally directing the recognition of all marriages valid in the jurisdiction where the marriage was celebrated.  More information can be found at the relevant federal agency’s website. 

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I am part of a married same-sex couple in Massachusetts.  Can I add my spouse to my health insurance plan?

DOMA affected a broad range of federal laws, some of which, like the income tax laws, may have affected your decisions about health insurance coverage for you, your spouse, and your family.  As the result of the Windsor decision, the fair market value of your spouse’s health insurance plan will no longer be imputed into your income for federal tax purposes. 

If you are a Massachusetts state employee or otherwise covered by the Group Insurance Commission (“GIC”), and previously affected by DOMA, you will have an opportunity to make changes to your insurance plan.  Please visit the GIC’s website for information concerning enrollment in their insurance plans.  (http://www.mass.gov/anf/employee-insurance-and-retirement-benefits/doma-faqs.html)

Private employers are likely to have different policies concerning enrollment of spouses in same-sex couples following the Windsor decision.  Some may permit immediate enrollment, whereas others may defer enrollment until the next open enrollment period.  Unfortunately, with respect to insurance coverage provided by employers who are self-insured under the federal ERISA law, DOMA may not have been the only barrier to adding your spouse to your insurance coverage.  Some employers may not be obligated to allow you to add your spouse, even after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor.

Please contact those responsible for human resources at your employer concerning whether and when you will be permitted to add your spouse to your healthcare coverage.

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Will my MassHealth coverage be affected by the Supreme Court's decision?

No. MassHealth has determined the eligibility of married applicants for coverage without regard to DOMA for several years.  As a result, the new federal recognition of your marriage does not affect your eligibility for, or your continued receipt of, MassHealth coverage.

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Can I include my spouse's expenses on my Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan?

DOMA prohibited the payment of a spouse’s expenses through an FSA plan for married same-sex couples unless the spouse qualified under federal tax law as a dependent.  Following the Windsor decision, you should contact those responsible for human resources at your employer or the administrator of your FSA plan for information about using your FSA plan to pay for your same-sex spouse’s expenses. 

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Am I entitled to an income tax refund as a result of the Windsor ruling?

Consult with a qualified tax professional or attorney to determine whether you are entitled to a refund for overpaid income taxes.  Some people, upon filing an amended return after the Windsor decision, could actually owe more in taxes than before, whereas others may be entitled to a refund.  Some couples may owe more in taxes for one year and be entitled to a refund for another year.  This is a fact-specific determination. 

Further information concerning the tax consequences of the Windsor decision may be obtained on the federal Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) website:  http://www.irs.gov/uac/Answers-to-Frequently-Asked-Questions-for-Same-Sex-Married-Couples.  The IRS requires that you apply for a refund within three years after the date you filed your original return or with town years after the date you paid taxes, whichever is later.  Different timing rules may apply to those who filed pursuant to extensions granted by the IRS.  Information concerning the filing of an amended return is available at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc308.html.  Please note that change in your federal adjusted gross income may affect your Massachusetts income tax filings. 

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Can I get a refund for the additional taxes I have already paid in 2013 in connection with my spouse's health insurance coverage?

With respect to money withheld in 2013 for taxes on a spouse’s health insurance coverage, that money may be refunded to you by the IRS when you file your 2013 federal income tax return.  Any refund, however, will depend on your overall tax liability at the time of filing.  You should contact a qualified tax professional for specific tax advice regarding your situation.  For more information please visit the IRS website, http://www.irs.gov/uac/Answers-to-Frequently-Asked-Questions-for-Same-Sex-Married-Couples.

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Since the Windsor decision came in the middle of the year, how am I supposed to file my federal income taxes for 2013 in 2014?

For tax purposes, marital status is assessed on the last day of the year.  If you reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages, then you will file your federal income tax return as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” for the tax year 2013.  You should consult with a qualified tax professional for more information.   For more information please visit the IRS website, http://www.irs.gov/uac/Answers-to-Frequently-Asked-Questions-for-Same-Sex-Married-Couples.

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Is my spouse entitled to an adjustment of immigration status now that DOMA has been struck down?

Ending DOMA will have a positive effect for many married bi-national couples.  However, you should consult with a qualified immigration attorney if you have specific questions about adjustment of status based on a marriage.

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If I cannot find the answer to my DOMA-related question here, what should I do?

Additional resources are available on GLAD's website at www.glad.org/DOMA and through their Legal Infoline from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. weekdays at (617) 426-1350.

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