If you are married and live in New York or any of the growing number of jurisdictions in the United States that recognize same-sex marriages, the death of Section 3 of DOMA (the Defense Of Marriage Act) means that, if you are a married gay or lesbian couple, you will enjoy all of the rights and responsibilities of a heterosexual married couple.

 Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional, if you were a legally married same-sex couple, DOMA denied you federal benefits. Among the many results of this law, such couples had to file separate state and federal income tax returns.  In addition, if one partner in the married couple died and left a significant estate to the surviving partner, the surviving partner was required to pay significant estate taxes. In fact, this particular situation in the Windsor case prompted the challenge to DOMA that was decided by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. 

Based on the Court’s decision, you might think that the matter is over and that we are now past this issue. However, this is not the case. If you are a legally married gay or lesbian couple and move to a state that does not recognize the right of a same-sex couple to marry, will you still be legally recognized as a married couple in your new state of residence and have all of the rights of a legally married couple? 

The answer is not clear at this time.  In the Windsor case, the Supreme Court did not address section 2 of DOMA. Section 2 provides that a state is not required to recognize the marriage of a couple that was married in a state that allowed such marriages. Under Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, known as the "Full Faith and Credit Clause," each state is required to recognize laws of another state. This clause should require a state that does not provide for same-sex marriage to recognize the marriage of a couple legally married in another state. However, until the Supreme Court addresses this issue, each state will be free to do as each it pleases.