This week, the Supreme Court made two rulings that will have a momentous impact on the lives of all same-sex couples throughout the country. By voiding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex couples will now finally have access to the benefits of more than 1,000 federal benefits that were previously made only available to heterosexual couples. These laws cover very essential areas that impact every married couple, such as social security, medical coverage, and taxes.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers fully supports the Supreme Court's decision. DOMA had been an infringement upon the rights of same-sex couples, who can legally marry in a number of states that has been consistently growing. Our organization had previously adopted a resolution in favor of the proposed Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 (S.598 and H.R. 1116), which was focused on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and ensuring the respect for state regulation of marriage.
The other case that the Supreme Court ruled on ultimately left in place a trial court's prior judgment that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. As a result, same-sex marriage will once again be legal in that state. The AAML had proudly filed an amicus brief in support of marriage for same-sex couples in this case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) and had also offered past legal support to the cause in Maryland and Iowa, among other states.
California now joins the ranks of 12 other states and Washington, D.C. in offering same-sex marriage. As a result, Dave Leonhardt at The New York Times has made an astute observation that "roughly 30 percent of Americans would live in jurisdictions where it is legal."
Almost a decade ago, the AAML adopted a resolution formally "supporting the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples and the extension to same-sex couples who marry and their children of all of the legal rights and obligations of spouses and children of spouses." With the forward movement of same-sex marriage accelerating throughout the country and state legislatures during these past few years, the AAML has also taken the initiative to form a first-of-its-kind LGBT/Alternative Family Committee in November of last year.
This innovative group's main purpose is to directly address the issues of marriage dissolution and child custody that some same-sex couples and families will inevitably face. Chaired by the president of the Michigan State Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Richard Roane, the committee has been working on a wide range of national and state legislative efforts in order to improve laws or to even create new ones that can better address the unique issues facing LGBT families. As with issues faced by heterosexual families, our main goal is to find ways to ensure more amicable resolutions that will further lessen the financial and emotional toll taken on a family, especially for children who are caught in the middle.
While same-sex married couples celebrate the Supreme Court's rulings this week, they should also make an effort to always stay informed of any additional legal developments that could directly impact their union. In addition, members of the legal community have a responsibility to not only help address, but make an effort to anticipate any legal complications that these couples might encounter along the way.