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Pennsylvania Legalizes Same-sex Marriage

This week, New Jersey’s neighbor Pennsylvania became the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

On May 20, 2014, federal Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania threw out the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, writing that, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

On May 21, 2014, Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania said he would not appeal Judge Jones’s decision. How same-sex marriage played out in Pennsylvania bears some similarity to New Jersey, where same-sex marriage also was legalized by a judicial decision and made more concrete when a Republican governor decided not to pursue an appeal.

While the implications of this decision are not yet fully clear, we hope it means that married same-sex couples in New Jersey can now cross the Delaware River without fear of losing their rights under state law.

Marriage has an impact on taxes, estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid, long-term care planning, healthcare and many other areas of concern to our clients. For more information on legal concerns for same-sex couples, please see Mark Friedman’s article Estate Planning for Same-sex Couples.

IRS Resolves the “Key West Dilemma” by Recognizing Same Sex Marriages Throughout the U.S.

The IRS announced today that they would treat same-sex couples as legally married based upon the couple’s state of ceremony, not their state of residence.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, meaning married same-sex couples could now enjoy the same privileges under federal law as heterosexual couples. However, same-sex marriage is permitted in only a small patchwork of states. Uncertainty remained over whether the government would define marriage based on where the couple was married, or where they lived.

For example, if a same-sex couple got married in New York, but lived in Florida where the marriage is not recognized (the “Key West Dilemma”), would the feds recognize the marriage?

The IRS today said yes, legal marriages will be recognized regardless of where the couples lives. This means that all same-sex couples can now benefit from filing joint tax returns, using the estate tax marital deduction, and more.

A plethora of other important government agencies have yet to chime in over whether marriage will be recognized based on state of residence or ceremony.

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Homepage photo: Cows grazing at Meadowbrook Farm, Bernardsville, NJ by Siddharth Mallya. October 23, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Autumn_Leaves_13.jpg.
Interior photo: Somerset hills pastoral scene by Lawrence Friedman.