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Same Sex Marriage - A Financial Planning Victory for Pennsylvania

A look at Same Sex Marriage after the United States Middle District landmark decision in Pennsylvania


In 2009, Edith Windsor lost her wife after 50 years of marriage. Ms. Windsor's grief was compounded by disastrous financial complications that arose when she was not permitted to file her spouse's federal estate tax return claiming the unlimited marital deduction.

In June of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark 5-4 decision in U.S. v. Windsor, declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional.  The ruling did not decide the overall constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but it declared that for federal estate tax purposes a marriage cannot be narrowly defined as solely between a man and a woman. 

Next came IRS Revenue Ruling 2013-117, which determines that post U.S. v. Windsor, the terms "spouse" and "marriage" are gender neutral.  Simply put, the IRS will treat all married couples the same for federal tax purposes.  However, if a same-sex couple "married" in a non-recognition state, their marriage was not recognized by the IRS.  Pennsylvania same-sex couples could circumvent the IRS Ruling by simply driving across the boarder to Maryland or New York to get married.  If married in a jurisdiction that recognized same-sex marriage, the marriage was deemed valid for purposes of the International Revenue Code. 

Finally, on May 20, 2014, Pennsylvania ruled that the statutory ban on recognizing same sex marriages was unconstitutional.  Pennsylvania was the last Northeastern state to overturn the ban.  U.S. District Judge John E. Jones cited the constitutional touchstones of due process and equal protection in striking down the prohibition.

"In future generations, the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage," Jones wrote. "We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history."

Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania can now enjoy the same tax advantages and social security benefits as opposite-sex married couples.