U.S. Supreme Court Challenge to Same-Sex Marriage Ban May Affect Florida Residents

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court agreed for the first time to hear two cases that challenge state and federal laws that define marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. One case challenges a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex spouses in states where gay marriage is legal. Depending on how the Court rules, the other case may decide whether Americans have a constitutional right to marry a partner of the same sex.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear two of seven recently appealed cases that deal with same-sex relationships. The Court’s review will take place at a time when nationwide surveys reportedly show a majority of Americans support same-sex unions. In February 2011, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. stated although the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) would continue to be enforced, President Obama believes the law is unconstitutional and would no longer defend it against legal challenges. In addition, nine states now authorize gay couples to marry.

One case the Court agreed to review is a challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. The case arose after one member of a same-sex couple who was married in Canada died. Although the surviving partner inherited all of her spouse’s property, she was required to pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes despite the union. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck down DOMA, and the case was quickly appealed. The other case that will be heard by the Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held the ban was unconstitutional, it is unclear whether the high court will limit its holding in the case to the State of California.

Although a number of states now allow gay marriage, many couples face hurdles with regard to Social Security survivor benefits, filing joint tax returns, and inheritance taxes. Gay couples who marry legally and later relocate often face additional legal difficulties. In addition, same-sex couples who split currently face what many refer to as the “gay divorce tax” because a transfer of wealth between former partners is generally more costly from a federal tax perspective. If you are facing the end of a same-sex or other long-term relationship in Florida, a competent family law attorney can explain your legal rights and obligations.

In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Defense of Marriage Act. Under the law, the State of Florida will not recognize same-sex unions whether or not they were entered into legally in another state. Although gay and unmarried couples cannot divorce in Florida, important legal issues may be addressed in a legal separation agreement. A separation will normally divide a former couple’s property and debt and address both child custody and support. Facing the end of any long-term relationship is difficult. If you have questions, contact a qualified family lawyer to help you protect your rights.

Attorney Sandy T. Fox is a hardworking Fort Lauderdale family law attorney who truly understands the importance of family. Because of this, he focuses his practice exclusively on family law matters. Mr. Fox is available to help you with all of your family law needs including legal separation, child support, child custody, adoption, alimony, divorce, name changes, domestic violence, paternity, and prenuptial agreements. He assists clients who are located throughout South Florida. To speak with an experienced family law advocate today, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Sandy T. Fox through our website or give us a toll free call at (800) 596-0579.

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Additional Resources:

Justices to Hear Two Challenges on Gay Marriage, by Adam Liptak, New York Times

Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage for first time, by Terry Baynes, Reuters.com