In a 5-4 ruling released this morning, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, granting thousands of married gay couple federal recognition. What does this mean, practically?
First: You still have to get, or have already been married, somewhere. The map above shows, in green, all the states that issue full marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It also shows, in blue, states that recognize, and extend certain state rights, to married or otherwise partnered same-sex couples under the rubrics of "domestic partnership" or "civil union."
The DOMA decision, however, concerns federal recognition, which means it deals with federal laws and protections. Such as:
Can I file taxes jointly with my gay spouse?
Yes! You now file your federal income taxes jointly, or as "married filing separately." (You will file, or have already been filing, your state income taxes jointly in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Only Wisconsin and Nevada recognize civil unions but don't allow partners to file joint taxes.)
How else does my tax situation change?
You will now no longer need to pay estate tax on any inheritance from your gay spouse.
Can I get health insurance through my gay spouse?
Yes! If your gay spouse is an employee of the federal government, you are now eligible for health benefits. (It is also now a federal crime to threaten or kill you in order to influence your gay fed spouse!) (On the other hand you also cannot accept expensive gifts from foreign governments.)
Depending on your employer, or the state you live in (all civil union-recognizing states except Nevada require spousal coverage), you may already have insurance through your gay spouse, in which case, congratulations! It is now treated as a tax-free benefit.
If you receive Medicaid benefits, your gay spouse's income will be one factor used to determine your eligibility, which means you may cease to qualify for them.
What about other federal benefits?
Housing assistance, and veterans', Social Security, and Supplemental Security benefits can both now be calculated based on your gay spouse's income—so if your gay spouse makes a lot of money you can expect to receive less in benefits. (The Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, calculated by household metrics, won't change.)
If I gay-marry a foreigner, does my new gay foreign spouse get a green card?
If you marry a foreigner in a state where gay marriage is legal and recognized, your new foreign gay spouse is eligible for an IR1 immigrant visa and green card.
Do I have to get married? What if I just want to be single for a while?
You do not have to get married.