Same-sex marriage now law of the land

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Attention engaged gay and lesbian couples: Call your wedding planner. The Supreme Court says you now can get married wherever you wish.

In a 5-4 decision, the country’s highest court ruled on Friday that no state can ban same-sex marriages or ignore such legal ceremonies performed elsewhere.

This is the second major victory for marriage equality in two years. The first came via the Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Windsor case in 2013 that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, provision that had limited marriage to one man and one woman from the federal government’s perspective.

Now in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, the justices have expanded the right of everyone to participate in marriage rites nationally.

“The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all states. It follows that the Court also must hold — and it now does hold — that there is no lawful  basis for a state to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another state on the ground of its same-sex character,” the majority opinion reads.

As President Barack Obama declared in the White House Rose Garden: “The Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality.”

Still some ‘I do’ delays

Although today’s ruling is momentous, there will be some wedding delays in states where same-sex marriage was banned.

Technically, the Supreme Court’s decision only applies to the four states where the cases before the court originated, Adam Romero, senior counsel at UCLA’s Williams Institute, told NPR. That’s Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.

Further court action is necessary for the Supreme Court ruling to apply to the other states with bans, but most same-sex marriage advocates expect the judicial system to move relatively quickly.

Still, expect marriage license offices to be swamped with couples looking to get their long-awaited pre-wedding paperwork.

State, federal tax filing connections

Once the nationwide legal actions are completed, it’s time for the vows, reception toasts and honeymoon. Then it’s back to the real world, which includes taxes.

But the same-sex newlyweds’ tax tasks now will be easier.

On the federal level, the Internal Revenue Service has been accepting one jointly filed Form 1040 from same-sex married couples since the DOMA ruling.

In most of the states where same sex marriages were outlawed, however, affected couples were forced to file separate state tax returns. Since states tend to base their filings on federal taxes, this meant couples had to create mock federal single returns to use to file their state forms.

Not only was this time consuming; it was costly. Couples who hired tax professionals to do their taxes had to pay for the extra preparation and filing.

One status, state and federal

But thanks to today’s Supreme Court ruling, now states that collect income taxes must offer federally recognized same-sex married filers the joint filing option at that level, too.

Of course, married same-sex couples also could opt at both state and federal levels to file two returns under the married filing separately status. Every couple’s tax situation is different and this might work better in some cases.

But generally, jointly filing married couples regardless of gender enjoy better tax results at all levels.

Just consider the tax time and money savings as a wedding gift from the U.S. judicial system. You can send the thank you note to the Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.

Bankrate details the filing status and other same-sex married couple tax considerations affected by today’s ruling. Also read about how the Supreme Court decision impacts estate taxes, as well as Social Security benefits of same-sex couples.

Keep up with the wide world of taxes by subscribing to Bankrate’s free Weekly Tax Tip newsletter. You also can follow me on Twitter: @taxtweet.