Marriage Ruling Opens Door To New Benefits

Posted at: 06/26/2013 10:46 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision Wednesday as justices voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. The historic move struck down the federal law that denies federal benefits to same sex couples. 

“There are over 1,100 rights and privileges that go with the federal recognition of marriage that now loving families like mine can finally have the benefit from,” said Dean Genth, an equal rights activist who married his husband Gary in Iowa in 2009.

Those benefits include things like joint medical insurance, social security benefits, tax incentives, and more.

And with so many changes, experts said some same-sex couples may not even be aware of all of the new opportunities available to them.

“If you don't think you can get something you're probably not going to pay a lot of attention to it,” said Lionel Foster of the Mason City Human Rights Commission. “Even those of us who know what we're entitled to, or at least what we can apply for, sometimes don't pay a lot of attention."

Experts anticipate it will take some time for many same-sex couples to learn about all the different tax options and other services now afforded to them.

But learning curve or not, the focus now is simply on the achievement of those rights.

“I think that now they will take comfort in the fact that they do have those rights, the full rights of everyone else in the country and that they should exercise those rights," Foster said.

And many same-sex couples can't wait to do just that.

“It'll be really wonderful to now have those kinds of things, along with hospital visitation rights, and all those recognized federally so that we can have all those benefits that every married couple enjoys,” Genth said.

Wednesday’s ruling means that all of those changes take effect immediately.

And on Wednesday President Obama said he would make sure government agencies change their procedures as soon as possible to accommodate those changes.