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Court blesses same-sex marriage

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week that renders part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, unconstitutional opens the door for legally married, same-sex couples to enjoy marital benefits that will make smart retirement planning much easier for them.

This includes being treated as spouses under at least a 1,000 federal laws, estimates Catherine Stamm, an attorney and a senior associate at human resources and benefits consultant Mercer.

The biggest advantage may be the right to collect Social Security in the same way heterosexual couples do. Social Security offers married couples both spousal and survivor benefits. It gives them the ability to combine and choose from among benefit amounts to maximize their total as a couple. Couples must be married one year to take advantage of spousal benefits and nine months to qualify for survivor benefits.

Legally married, same-sex couples also will qualify for spousal pension benefits, although how this will work in various locations and circumstances is unclear, says Stamm. Same-sex couples currently may marry in Connecticut, Delaware (starting July 1), the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (Aug. 1), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (Aug. 1), Vermont and Washington. Another high court ruling announced simultaneously cleared the way for California to allow gay couples to marry, beginning in about a month. Stamm says it isn't clear how same-sex couples will be treated if they marry in a state where it is legal but are employed in a state where it isn't. "We need to get guidance. It will require some patience, but it will be sorted out."

Stamm wrote in a policy statement for Mercer that the "rulings take effect immediately, possibly even retroactively," but she also points out that it will take  time for the federal bureaucracy as well as private businesses to reprogram tax reporting systems and update forms for things like enrollment, distributions and beneficiary designations.

Anna Pfaehler, certified financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group and author of "Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples," poses a particularly sticky question that also wasn't addressed by this week's Supreme Court decisions: "Will the federal law recognize you as married if you live in a state that doesn't?"

Until that question and all its ramifications are sorted out, Pfaehler urges same-sex couples to continue to be particularly diligent about retirement and estate planning. How these court decisions will affect same-sex couples "won't be totally clear for a long time," she says.

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July 15, 2013 at 10:56 am

@Paul Merrey, Disagree with the courts, but get your facts straight. The pledge of allegiance written in 1892 (had nothing to do with the founding of this nation by the way) stated, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Under god was added in 1948.

July 05, 2013 at 10:18 am

The early Christian Church didn’t want to let go of their Laws and were especially keen to enforce them on the Gentiles who they considered an abomination (boy this sounds familiar!). Paul fought long and hard against such ideas and pointed out again and again that if any one of us tries to follow the Law or enforce the Law upon others. God will hold us accountable for following each and every one of the Laws – no exceptions (Galatians 5:1-6)! This means of course if we want to enforce Levitical Laws on someone else God will require us (not them!) to uphold ALL the Levitical Laws! This would be no easy task!
These laws require that you can’t go anywhere on the Sabbath so that would rule out going to church, shopping at the mall or going to a ball game. If your kids cursed or disobeyed you, you would be under obligation to put them to death. Same penalty for those who read their horoscopes – yep – death. Know of anybody who had committed adultery? You’ve got it! Death.

While such harsh punishments should reduce our overpopulation problems and traffic jams on the way to work. I’m not sure this is what God has in mind for us today! At least its a little easier for those of us in our menstrual period. Instead of death we would only be sent out beyond the city limits to wait out our "humiliation". Jewelry, beauty parlors (i.e. hair styles) or tattoos – forget it! No pork or shellfish and touching anything “unclean” is out. At least that one sounds ok – I don’t like unclean things. Of course the rub in this case is that anything with a cloven hoof is considered “unclean” so that means pigskin and the like is out! No bacon in the morning, leather purses, wallets, jackets and the like are out. Footballs and basketballs would have to convert over to synthetics or those sports would be out as well.

Divorces would get pretty interesting too. You see, men were permitted to ‘put away’ their wives just about anytime they wanted to. Not to mention they were allowed to have as many wives as they wanted! Women, on the other hand, were forbidden to initiate the divorce and would be stoned to death if they were caught cheating. I could go on and on, but why - especially since these Laws are no longer applicable to us today?

June 30, 2013 at 8:35 am

Let me tell you what is far worse than the Supreme Court's ruling: It is the attitude of EXCLUSION evidenced by the bible thumping extreme right - shown at it's negative best by the two preceeding commentors, who, apparantly, have no grip on the reality of today's world. Look at the numbers and you will find that there are far too many of "us" to be an anomaly. We are ALL made in God's image ..... whether you like it or not. I am disgusted by the self righteous attitude of these hypocrites!

June 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I agree with Mr. Merrey's statements. As a nation, we are in serious trouble now. This will have disastrous consequences for our country, absolutely the worst decision ever made since the founding of our country.

Paul Merrey
June 28, 2013 at 8:20 am

I completely disagree with the Court. This Country was founded as being "One nation, under God, with liberty and freedom for all. It is against the Bible, all Bibles, and so it is against Gods Law. We keep forgetting where this country comes from. We let one atheist go to the Courts and get rid of God in schools, and public buildings. ONE PERSON, That is less the .000001% if the Nation. and this is a Democracy where the majority is supposed to rule. We let the Supreme Court say what they want and do not care about Democracy. All I can say is that THIS IS WRONG.....