The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a huge step forward for same-sex couples, and reaffirms that all married couples deserve equal respect and treatment under the law. This decision will have a huge impact for same-sex couples, since there are 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities that are afforded to married couples. This ruling will affect Social Security, Medicare spousal benefits, Medi-Cal, CalWorks, and CalFresh eligibility determination, military spousal and dependent benefits, and a wide range of other areas. For more information about the far-reaching impacts of the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, check out these fact sheets from Center for American Progress.
Additionally, Wednesday’s ruling that Section 3 of the DOMA is unconstitutional will make implementation of the Affordable Care Act much simpler in California. California law states that domestic partners have the same rights and responsibilities as spouses, and the California Insurance Equality Act specifies that domestic partners must be offered health insurance on the same terms as spouses. In contrast to that, the federal government has historically treated same-sex partners as strangers, regardless of legal recognition by their home state. This discrepancy has caused big headaches for the people implementing the ACA in California.
The ACA provides subsidies to help people pay for health insurance, and bases those subsidies on income and family size. Married same-sex partners have had to file taxes as single, and if they have children the parents have had to decide which one of them would claim the children for tax purposes. When applying for health insurance, same-sex headed families should be able to apply together just like opposite-sex headed families, or families headed by a single parent. But this created a lot of confusion about how people in different tax households can apply together, and how to allow domestic partners to combine their individual subsidies to purchase a family insurance plan. Now that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages, Covered California can wash their hands of that particular dilemma and concentrate on the many other steps needed to ensure that the ACA succeeds in California.
This post was written by Kate Burch, who coordinates the California LGBT HHS Network on behalf of Health Access.