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Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnerships, and Civil Unions

As a result of the Supreme Court's decisions in U.S. v. Windsor (2013),  and Obergefell v Hodges (2015), all states must allow same-sex couples to marry on the same basis as different sex couples, and must recognize all lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages as they do out-of-state different-sex marriages.   The federal government, and all state and local governments must treat same-sex married couples the same as different-sex married couples.

Prior Marriage, Domestic Partnership, or Civil Union: If you have previously married, or had a registered Civil Union or Domestic Partnership with a person other than the person you plan to marry, it is extremely important to take the legal actions necessary to dissolve that Marriage, Civil Union or Domestic Partnership prior to your marriage.  Contact an attorney in the state where the  Marriage, Civil Union or Domestic Partnership was obtained, to determine the legal steps you must take to dissolve that relationship. 

Even if your prior Domestic Partnership or Civil Union was with the person you plan to marry, be sure to consult with an attorney in the state where the Domestic Partnership or Civil Union was entered into, to determine if the Domestic Partnership or Civil Union should be dissolved prior to your marriage.

Some Legal Consequences of Marriage:

Taxes: All married couples must file their income tax returns as married (married filing jointly, or married filing separately).  The total taxes for you and your spouse might be higher or lower than they were when you filed your taxes as "single".  Consult your accountant to see if you can file amended tax returns for one or more previous years, and if you would benefit from filing amended returns.   If your and your partner are not married, but are considering marriage, consult an accountant to determine the potential income tax impact of marriage.

Retirement Plans: All employer retirement plans must provide the same benefits to an employee married to a person of the same sex as provided to employees married to different-sex spouses.  You must name your spouse as primary beneficiary on your retirement account, unless s/he waives in writing the right to be named as a  beneficiary.   

IRAs: Although federal law currently does not require spousal consent if you name someone other than you spouse as beneficiary of an IRA, it is advisable to have your spouse signed written consent if s/he is not the100% beneficiary of your IRA.

Because of the IRS rules regarding retirement accounts, a spouse named as a beneficiary of a retirement plan has more options regarding distributions from the retirement plan than a non-spouse who is named as a beneficiary.  See plans for more information.

Health Insurance: If your company provided health coverage for your same-sex spouse and you had to pay taxes on the value of such coverage, you might be able to claim a refund for taxes for the health insurance provided to your spouse.  Consult your accountant regarding a refund claim, and the time limit for filing such a claim.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): An employee working for a private company with at least 50 employees, a government agency, or for an elementary or secondary school, and who is married to a same-sex spouse, is entitled to the same FLMA benefits as an employee married to a different-sex spouse.  For more information about the FMLA, see Fact Sheet 28: The Family and Medical Leave Act - Overview

Federal Employees
:  An employee married to a person of the same sex is entitled to the same benefits to which employees married to a different sex spouse are entitled. The children of same-sex married couples are entitled to family coverage under the federal employee’s benefits, even if the federal employee has not legally adopted the children.  In addition, same-sex domestic partners, the children of an employee’s same-sex domestic partner, and some other relatives of the employee’s same-sex domestic partner are treated as “family members” by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in some of its programs. See Frequently Asked Questions-Same Sex Domestic Partner Benefits at for more details, and to determine if if any of the above policies concerning domestic partners have changed for any of the programs.

Social Security: Now that the Supreme Court has held that all states must grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and must recognize all valid same-sex out-of-state marriages license, Social Security recognizes all same-sex married couples residing in Missouri as married if the marriage was legal where performed. 

If your spouse is receiving Social Security disability or retirement benefits, you might be entitled to spousal benefits (based on a percentage of the Social Security that your spouse is receiving).  If  your spouse is deceased, but was receiving Social Security prior to death, you might be eligible for spousal survivor benefits.  If you have children, your children also might be eligible for child benefits.
Generally, you cannot receive benefits prior to the date that you first apply for benefits.   Therefore, if you think you might be eligible for, or wish to apply for spousal benefits, go to your local Social Security office to meet with a representative to discuss your options. The Social Security office staff generally are very helpful.  See also the Social Security publication, “Understanding The Benefits” (available in pamphlet form at Social Security or on-line at

Veterans Adminstration: There are many veterans benefits to which a veteran’s spouse and/or dependents are entitled.  For more information, see

Immigration:  An American married to a same-sex spouse living in another country can, in many cases, to sponsor the spouse for a green card or a visa.  However, immigration law is extremely complex. If you are married to a non-citizen (or are considering marriage to a non-citizen), you should consult with an attorney who specializes in immigration law to determine whether or not you can or should file an application to sponsor your spouse for a green card or visa.  Do not contact or file any application with the Immigration Service without first obtaining counsel and  advice from an experienced immigration attorney.  For more information, see

Updated 10/31/2016