Tag Archive for 'gay marriage'

What Now For Same Sex Couples In New York? – Estate Planning Thoughts


Having not posted anything for a while it seems appropriate that my return-post – if I can be dramatic about it – should be on the subject that I’ve dedicated a fair amount of screen space to, that of marriage equality.  So thanks to NYC for bring me back to the blog-o-webs!

Now that the GLBT community can finally *really* ask people to buy them stuff from a wedding registry there are likley to be a number of changes relevant to estate planning for them, not all of which can be forseen.  From Professor Beyer though comes a list of some of the most likley changes.

  • Couples can file a joint state tax return but will have to file separate federal tax returns. For couples who earn less than $65,000 a year jointly, the amount they pay in state income taxes may decrease because they will receive a marriage bonus. Couples in a higher bracket, however, may end up paying more by filing a joint tax return.
  • Couples may spend more time and money preparing their tax returns as they must prepare a dummy federal tax return using a married status in order to use that data while filing their state joint tax return.
  • New York allows spouses to transfer an unlimited amount of assets at their death; individuals must pay state estate tax on estates over $1 million. (Couples will still be considered as individuals with regard to federal estate and gift taxes).
  • Spouses of state employees will be eligible for health insurance, pension survivor benefits, and any other benefits available for state employees.
  • For married lesbian couples having a baby, the woman who did not give birth to the couple’s child will also be recognized as a parent on the child’s birth certificate. (It may still be wise to have a formal adoption to secure the child’s legal status to both women).
  • For married gay men using a surrogate, only the biological father will be listed on the child’s birth certificate. In New York, the surrogate mother must relinquish her maternal rights before the other father can adopt the child.
  • Spouses may now bring wrongful death claims and receive worker’s compensation benefits if their spouse dies in a work-related injury.
  • Couples will receive federal benefits if the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman) is ever struck down.

Now, we’ll have to wait for the family law blawgers to update us on the new state of their businesses!

Gay marriage, by legislature, in Vermont

Someone asked me the other day:  Michael, why are so many of your blog posts about gay marriage?”  “Well”, I replied, “Because tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”

I know, I’m pretty awesome right?!  Well, in truth, I am only that which Thomas Paine made me.

Seriously though, the issue is a huge one for us estate planners.  What we are forced to do now for non-traditional families is burdensome, expensive and oftentimes not guaranteed to work.  Granting a marriage right with gender-neutral language would make our jobs much easier…  Which Vermont did today:

From The Volokh Conspiracy:

Nine years after it became the first state to approve civil unions, Vermont becomes the first state to enact gay marriage legislatively. With just one vote to spare, the Vermont state legislature has overridden the governor’s veto of a gay marriage bill. The state house voted 100-49 and the state senate voted 23-5.

Sec. 3. 15 V.S.A. § 8 is amended to read:


Marriage is the legally recognized union of one man and one woman two people. Gender-specific terms relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships, including without limitation “spouse,” “family,” “marriage,” “immediate family,” “dependent,” “next of kin,” “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” “wife,” “widow,” and “widower,” shall be construed to be gender-neutral for all purposes throughout the law, whether in the context of statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil law.

This is making the rounds out there in the blogo-netcom…  I’m sure I’m not the first.

Iowa Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

This is what happens when I schedule early morning meetings…  Everyone else gets the good stories out first.

The ABA Journal, The Volokh Conspiracy and Professor Berry’s ever-timely Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog all wrote this morning to report on the Iowa Supreme Court striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.  The decision was unanimous.

The court ruled the ban violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution, according to the Associated Press and the Des Moines Register.

“Our responsibility … is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time,” the opinion (PDF) said.

I added the emphasis there in the last sentence because it reminded of Lawrence v Texas overruling Bowers v Hardwick.  Bowers had been invoked more times than I care to count for its “deeply rooted in our Nations history” standard/B.S., that had, until the Lawrence case, stood as an insurmountable barrier to the equal rights of more than the just the GLBT community.

“We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination” the Court stated.

The Court stated further.

The court stated that “a statute inconsistent with the Iowa constitution must be declared void even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion.”

Also interesting, according this story at the New York Times, is Iowa’s lack of a residency standard for marriage licenses…  I think you see where this is going.  Have you ever seen a Pride Parade adjacent to a cornfield?  Neither have I.  But I bet its pretty cool.

Above The Law writes:

Not surprisingly, a spokesperson for the Iowa Family Policy Center was deeply sadden [sic] that more people will be allowed to get married:

Bryan English, spokesman for the Iowa Family Policy Center, a conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage, said many Iowans are disappointed with the ruling and don’t want the courts to decide the issue.

“I would say the mood is one of mourning right now in a lot of ways, and yet the first thing we did after internalizing the decision was to walk across the street and begin the process of lobbying our legislators to let the people of Iowa vote,” Mr. English said. “This is an issue that will define (lawmakers’) leadership. This is not a side issue.”

Iowa is now the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages.