The San Francisco Chronicle
December 17, 2012

From a financial standpoint, same-sex married couples have much to gain - and some to lose - if the Supreme Court overturns the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The high court decided on Dec. 7 to hear two cases challenging federal and California laws that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The federal case challenges Section 3 of DOMA, which prevents the recognition of same-sex marriage at the federal level for all purposes including Social Security, taxes and immigration. Overturning this section would not automatically make same-sex marriage legal in every state, but the federal government would recognize the marriages in states where they are legal. The second case challenges Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative that prevents same-sex couples from getting married in California. California recognizes same-sex marriages that were legally entered into before Prop 8 took effect in November 2008. If the court overturns Prop. 8, same-sex couples could legally marry in California again, but it would not have a big financial impact unless the court also rules that DOMA is unconstitutional. Many same-sex couples are aware of the benefits they would get if the court strikes down DOMA, such as becoming eligible for Social Security spousal benefits and getting a foreign-born spouse on the fast track for permanent resident status. But "it's not a panacea of benefits. There are advantages and disadvantages," says Nanette Lee Miller, a partner with accounting firm Marcum.