Like most of my friends and colleagues I’m thrilled with Supreme Court decision to allow Federal benefits for same sex married couples after striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). There is more work to be done — but yeah!!
I’ve been reading some comments online to the effect that this is only a ruling effecting Federal benefits and so it does not matter much. I beg to differ. In Baltimore and the Maryland and DC suburbs, this is a HUGE deal for our very large Federal workforce. Contrary to some beliefs in middle America, Federal workers don’t always make huge salaries and benefits.
Prior to this ruling, GLBT married couples in Maryland — and same-sex partners in my Baltimore area considering marriage — were faced with a nasty dilemma. Under Maryland law, their same sex unions were authorized as valid weddings. This was not the case under Federal workforce benefit programs. So lower-income couples where one partner worked for the Federal government and one did not could be caught in a nasty surprise. By getting married under Maryland law, the non-Federal spouse could lose access to Maryland Medicaid, PAC, or other low income healthcare programs. This was of course because now the joint incomes of both spouses would be counted in the determination of Maryland healthcare program eligibility. Meanwhile, the non-Federal spouse WOULD NOT have the right to joint the Federal employee spouse’s healthcare plan!
So lower-income same-sex couples in Maryland were faced with a dilemma in which they could lose critical benefits for marrying under Maryland law and not obtain the spousal benefits deserved under Federal law.
For my clients in the Baltimore area — and gay marriages generally across the area — this is a very important ruling. One more barrier to their unions has been lifted. One more barrier to obtaining needed counseling and psychotherapy has also been erased.