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Impact of SCOTUS Decision Not to Take Up Seven Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Oct 7, 2014

By denying certiorari to the seven marriage equality cases before it, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) allowed Courts of Appeals rulings to stand, making such marriages legal (or soon to be legal) in eleven more states. The court’s action allows same-sex marriages to be recognized in Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, and subsequently in all the states within the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth circuits including Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming where the unconstitutionality of discriminatory marriage laws is the controlling precedent. The eleven new same-sex marriage recognition states bring the nationwide total to 30, plus the District of Columbia.

The move toward a super majority of states seems to be of value to SCOTUS, which appears to be leaning toward allowing consensus to control. It seems likely that SCOTUS will only take up a same-sex equality case should one of the remaining district courts of appeal rule that a same-sex marriage ban is constitutional. In the absence of such a conflicting ruling, it is now unlikely SCOTUS will grant certiorari. This does mean a spotlight will be on the Fifth, Eighth, and Eleventh circuits which have not yet come down with a same sex marriage ruling.

As to the immediate effect of the SCOTUS denial of cert, same-sex married couples residing in the eleven states cited above may consider themselves legally married for all state and federal purposes. These couples might therefore consider reviewing their past year’s tax returns with a view toward amending their filings based on their changed status. They should begin to plan to file joint returns for 2014 where federal and state law requires them to do so. What’s more, various federal programs, including some from the Veterans Administration, have benefits that same sex couples may now qualify for that were governed by the rules concerning same-sex marriage recognition at the state level.

Residents of the eleven states now recognizing same-sex marriage are urged to contact their tax advisors and their trust and estate attorneys.

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