Local politicians, including several openly gay and married elected officials, praised the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a law which denied same-sex couples the legal protections afforded to heterosexual spouses.
“When I realized that I was gay, I thought that all of those things that I dreamed about would be denied to me. And in fact, our government said that I couldn’t have those things. I couldn’t get married, I couldn’t be equal,” Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said at a press conference on June 25, the day of the ruling.
Van Bramer became the first openly gay elected official to get married in Queens when he wed his longtime partner Dan Hendrick last July.
All same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is legal will now be eligible for federal benefits given to their heterosexual counterparts.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.
“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s opinion for the majority.
The case’s plaintiff, New York resident Edith Windsor, was trying to collect a refund from the Internal Revenue Service for $363,053 in federal estate taxes she paid when her spouse died in 2009. DOMA prohibited her from collecting the money.
In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on June 26 dismissed the California Proposition 8 case. Two days later, same sex marriage resumed in the state.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who will be the city’s first openly gay mayor if she is elected this fall, marked her one year wedding anniversary in May.
“It’s almost impossible for me to describe what this means,” said Quinn, calling DOMA a “cancer.”
Daniel Dromm, another openly gay member of the City Council, said the court righted a “grave injustice” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Extended tax benefits could save same sex couples money each year. Some of the benefits of filling as a married couple include a greater earned income tax credit and additional exemptions for any children, according to George Sotrillis, a Great Neck-based accounting and tax consultant.
Other new legal rights will give them the same military benefits heterosexual already receive and grant them marriage- and fiancé-based visas.
“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court [...] I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse,” Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a July 1 statement.
Naresh Gehi, an immigration trial lawyer from the Forest Hills and Ozone Park-based firm Gehi and Associates said he has already received several inquiries from same-sex couples following the DOMA decision.
Updated Wednesday, July 3
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