How DOMA's Repeal Could Be Complicated

PHOTO: Jenni Chang (L) and Lisa Dazols (R) look on as celebrations ensue in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, California, June 26, 2012, after the US Supreme Court struck down The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

With Wednesday's Supreme Court decision overturning a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples will be eligible for the same federal benefits as opposite-sex couples.

We outlined a few of those, like green cards and family leave, here.

Let the celebration commence, right?

Not exactly.

Benefits will go to same-sex couples who are married and live in the 13 states (including, soon, California) and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is recognized.

But what about gay couples who marry in a state that recognizes gay marriage, like Massachusetts, but move someplace that doesn't, like Texas? Do they retain access to those benefits?

It depends on whether where they live or where they were married is deemed the deciding factor.

If the government decides benefits hinge on the latter, legally married gay couples will be able to move anywhere and keep those benefits. The Obama administration supported DOMA's repeal and the president has said he believes this should be the case.

But the Internal Revenue Service and some other agencies have policies that say it's where married couples live, not where they married, that matters. If that's true, the gay couple that now lives in Texas would be out of luck.

Adoption is also tricky. Some states prohibit same-sex adoption and the ruling may have little impact in terms of adoption laws because they are not federal.

Pro-gay rights organizations have urged President Obama to issue an order stating that agencies should use where the weddings took place as the key, but that could be complicated by legal challenges from opponents. They'll have to be very careful and precise about the wording of any order. We'll have to wait and see exactly what one might look like.

All that said, a couple of things are certain. Married gay couples will be able to receive military spousal benefits no matter where they live and they will be able to apply for green cards.

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