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Texas To Decide If Married Gays Can Divorce

AbbottGay marriage is presently not legal in Texas as the state constitution explicitly bans marriages and civil unions between members of the same sex. However, the constitutionality of the marriage ban may soon be challenged in the Texas State Supreme Court as two Texas couples - one in Dallas, one in Austin - bring their cases against the state. The Dallas couple had originally filed for divorce in 2009, having legally married in Massachusetts two years prior, but were denied by Greg Abbott of the Texas Attorney General's Office when he invoked DOMA.

Now that DOMA has been struck down the case is being brought back to court to test whether or not Texas will recognize legal out-of-state marriages as well as challenge the constitutionality of Texas family law. Abbott feels confident that the court cases will help prove that the Texas laws do not violate the U.S. Constitution when oral arguments begin in Austin on November 5th.

Gay Couples Risk Paying More Taxes As They Wait For IRS' Guidance

6a00d8341c730253ef014e86440e22970d-800wiThe many questions regarding tax returns and federal benefits that gay couples across the country were faced with in the wake of the US Supreme Court's gutting of Section 3 of DOMA have continued to linger despite a promise from the IRS in June that it would “move swiftly to provide revised guidance in the near future." Bloomberg news reports that couples are still waiting for the IRS' guidance on how to tackle a myriad of issues including tax refunds, health insurance, and joint accounts, among others:

After years of fighting for equal tax-and-benefit treatment, married couples now await guidance on how the Internal Revenue Service and federal agencies will implement the ruling. Without it, those who file for tax refunds may end up paying more, not less.

Married couples in states that don’t recognize gay marriage and those who delayed filing their 2012 returns in anticipation of the court’s decision in June are pressing for clarity. Spouses computing whether to seek refunds from prior returns see the three-year statute of limitations for amendments closing as they look to the IRS for details.

“We are desperately awaiting that guidance,” said Shari Levitan, chairwoman of the New England private wealth services group at Holland & Knight LLP in Boston. “The major question for clients is for returns that are still open, and even those that are beyond the statute of limitations, can they be amended?”

Without IRS guidance, couples who extended their 2012 return deadline to Oct. 15 and who live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage will probably file their federal returns jointly and disclose they are doing so based on the court’s decision, Levitan said. She serves high-net-worth clients, about 10 percent of them same-sex couples.

“That’s a risk,” because the IRS could deem they filed incorrectly, she said.

MSNBC Looks At Far Reaching Implications Of NJ Marriage Equality Case: VIDEO


Yesterday we reported on the challenge to New Jersey's civil unions law that is being widely touted as the "first nationwide test" of the U.S. Supreme Court's DOMA ruling in United States v. Windsor. MSNBC's Tamron Hall spoke with Pete Williams about the case. Commenting on the potential implications of the New Jersey ruling once it's handed down, Williams said:

"In other states that have civil unions the same argument would apply. The state can't say that civil unions are just as good if people in civil unions can't get the full recognition of the federal government. But secondly you get to the core of the Supreme Court's holding in the DOMA case where they said that depriving same-sex couples of the recognition of marriage deprives them of their dignity, I think the ruling uses that, Anthony Kennedy's ruling uses that almost a dozen times."

Freedom To Marry's Marc Solomon also gets in on the coversation AFTER THE JUMP...

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New Jersey Judge to Hear Arguments Tomorrow in Marriage Equality Challenge


The first major legal test of the effect of Supreme Court's June decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act takes place this week, with a New Jersey state judge scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow morning in Trenton as to whether the state's decision to offer same-sex couples access to civil unions but not marriages violates both the state and federal constitutions.  CBS New York reports:

A New Jersey court case headed for oral arguments this week is among the first to test what a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down key parts of a law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage means in states.

The hearing Thursday in Superior Court in Trenton is based on a lawsuit from two years ago, when six couples and their children argued that New Jersey’s civil union law didn’t fulfill a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that said gay couples had to have the same legal protections as married couples. The civil union law was intended to give same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage.

Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality, the LGBT advocacy groups behind the lawsuit, have argued that the end of DOMA's denial of federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples means that New Jersey's civil unions are now inherently unequal to full marriages, since they bar same-sex couples from accessing federal benefits.

Officials for the state of New Jersey, on the other hand, argue that because state law views civil union partners as spouses in a legally equivalent manner to different-sex married couples, civil unions should qualify same-sex couples in New Jersey for federal marital benefits.  Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality, the state officials contend, should be suing the federal government as opposed to the state.

Tomorrow's court hearing will likely focus on whether the judge should issue a summary judgment--that is, a judgment before a full trial--instituting marriage equality in New Jersey.  If the motion for summary judgment is denied, the case will proceed to trial.  Any decision by the court could be challenged in New Jersey's appeals courts or the state Supreme Court.

Last month, New Jersey Senate Democrats announced in a press conference that they plan to hold a vote before the year's end to override Governor Chris Christie's veto of a marriage equality bill that successfully cleared the state legislature last year.  Christie has said that the issue should be put to a vote of the people.

For Now, Social Security Benefits Limited to Same-Sex Couples in Marriage Equality States


Some big, late-night news this weekend from BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner: new policy guidelines established by the Social Security Adminstration after the Supreme Court's invalidation of the Defense of Marriage Act will limit benefits to only those same-sex couples who live in states with marriage equality. From Geidner's report:

As of Friday, a new section for “Windsor Same-Sex Marriage Claims” — named after the Supreme Court case of United States v. Windsor, which resulted in a part of the Defense of Marriage Act being struck down — was added to the Social Security Administration’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS), which the agency describes as the primary source of information used by Social Security employees to process claims for Social Security benefits.

The claims processing instructions “allow for payment of claims” when the claimant “was married in a state that permits same-sex marriage” and “is domiciled at the time of application, or while the claim is pending a final determination, in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.”

As Geidner points out, the SSA had announced in a press release earlier late day that it would be making "some" payments to same-sex couples in valid marriages and praised the Supreme Court's ruling as a victory for fairness and equality.

In an update to his post early Saturday morning, Geidner linked to Volokh Conspiracy blogger Will Baude, who hypothesized in his own post on the legal analysis site that the SSA's decision was predicated in part on a specific statute pertaining to marital law as it applies to social security claims:

An applicant is the wife, husband, widow, or widower of a fully or currently insured individual for purposes of this title if the courts of the State in which such insured individual is domiciled at the time such applicant files an application.  [emphasis Baude's]

In response to the Supreme Court's DOMA decision, a majority of federal agencies--such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Personnel Management--have opted to look to the laws of the state in which a couple was married as opposed to the state of the couple's residence in order to determine marital status. These determinations have taken place largely through executive review alone.

If Baude is correct, however, the SSA's hands may essentially be tied by the statute in question. That would mean any fix for the issue will likely need to be a legislative one.

Right Wing Blowhard Phyllis Schlafly Feels 'Personally Insulted' By DOMA Decision: AUDIO

SchlaflyPhyllis Schlafly, the anti-gay, antifeminisit leader of the Eagle Forum, stopped by the Steve Deace radio show yesterday to blast the 'inappropriate, unprecedented and really nasty' majority opinion Anthony Kennedy issued for the DOMA decision.

When asked if Kennedy's writing is really just an 'anti-Christian polemic disguised as a legal opinion,' Schlafly had this to say [via Right Wing Watch]:

"Well, I was extremely offended at all the nasty names he called us. I just think it's so inappropriate, unprecedented and really nasty for the justice to say that the reason DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, was passed, and those who stand up for traditional marriage is that they have animus against gays, they want to deny them equal dignity, that we want to brand them as unworthy, we want to humiliate their children, we have a hateful desire to harm a politically unpopular group. I just think, I feel personally insulted by what Justice Kennedy said. I don't think that's true, the idea that anybody who stood up for traditional marriage is guilty of all the hate in his heart is just outrageous." 


In the past, Schlafly has made the claim that 'the main goal of the homosexuals is to silence any criticism. Most of them aren't interested in getting married.'

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