The Supreme Court’s overturning a key aspect of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was a watershed for gay and lesbian equality. Now the federal government faces the complex task of implementing the court’s ruling as quickly as possible.
The justices were clear: Couples in same-sex marriages must be treated the same as their heterosexual counterparts in terms of federal benefits.
What isn’t clear is what happens when lawfully married same-sex couples live in one of the 36 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Will they get the benefits they are due?
It shouldn’t be the case that same-sex couples can be first-class citizens in the eyes of the federal government, except in certain states.
To that end, the federal government has moved quickly and commendably to ensure that benefits extend to all married same-sex couples. Each agency has its regulations, and some define marriage based on where a couple resides rather than where the spouses were married.
Through any avenue of attack, these situations are bound to be a headache to update. The Obama administration should continue pressing hard to change them, but in some cases it will be up to Congress.
For the sake of clarity and equality, lawmakers must help the administration harmonize standards across the government, recognizing the union of any couple legally married in any state, no matter where they now reside and no matter what piece of the federal government is looking.