DOMA Ruling Gives Washington Couples Benefits

By Paige Browning

The U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is a burst of good news for about 2,500 same-sex couples that have married in Washington since last December.  Gonzaga University law professor Jason Gillmer says the effects of the DOMA ruling will ripple throughout the United States.  He scoured the 77-page Supreme Court opinion, and says same-sex couples are now entitled to all federal benefits and burdens.

Gillmer: “Of over 1,000 federal laws regarding a host of issues, whether its social security benefits, whether it’s the ability to file a joint marriage return.”

This includes health insurance and retirement benefits for same-sex spouses of federal employees. But insurance and other benefits still remain up in the air for people like Catherine "Kitty" Kane.  She owns a bar, her wife works for a private company.

Catherine Kane sorts through documents at her business Nyne Bar after the Supreme Court ruling. Photo by Paige Browning.Kane: “So here we get married, it’s legal in Washington state, we’re excited, and then we find out because her employer is self-insured for medical and dental, I still didn’t qualify to be on her insurance.”
 
With DOMA repealed, she and her wife have asked the company about insurance coverage, and Kane is digging through paperwork to discover other benefits. But she says regardless, she can feel a difference.
 
Kane: “We’re truly legally married.  In the United States, the state of Washington, I don’t care, we’re legally married.  So yeah, it makes a difference.”

Gillmer says the wording of the ruling could give leverage for more state and local movements to jump onto the issue.

Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio


Catherine Kane sorts through documents at her business Nyne Bar & Bistro after the Supreme Court ruling. Photo by Paige Browning.

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