Tag Archives: same-sex marriage

law.courts

Major victories for same-sex marriage

In a historic victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

“Today’s significant ruling will likely spur further expansion of protections for LGBT individuals,” said Nonnie Shivers, a shareholder in the Phoenix office of Ogletree Deakins. “Employers must keep abreast of these rapidly expanding protections under federal, state, and local laws for not only gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals, but also covering gender identity and gender expression. Employers should expect changes to federal laws impacting the workplace based on today’s rulings, in particular the inclusion of same-sex partners in leave considerations under the Family and Medical Leave Act and potentially sponsorship of same-sex partners for immigration purposes, as well as expanded state and local protections.”

The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

The other was a technical ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Gov. Jerry Brown quickly ordered that marriage licenses be issued to gay couples as soon as a federal appeals court lifts its hold on the lower court ruling, possibly next month.

In neither case did the court make a sweeping statement, either in favor of or against same-sex marriage. And in a sign that neither victory was complete for gay rights, the high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states. A separate provision of the federal marriage law that allows a state to not recognize a same-sex union from elsewhere remains in place.

President Barack Obama praised the court’s ruling on the federal marriage act, which he labeled “discrimination enshrined in law.”

“It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,” Obama said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was disappointed in the outcome of the federal marriage case and hoped states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The ruling in the California case was not along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.

“We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit,” Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.

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Financial Awareness Gap Still High for LGBT Investors

LGBT investors indicate high levels of post-election optimism about the political and economic direction of the country, as well as confidence about their own financial future, according to a recent Wells Fargo nationwide survey.  LGBT investors also show a great deal of optimism around the future of same-sex marriage and civil unions.  The picture is not entirely rosy, however.  Despite steps toward retirement preparation, LGBT investors remain concerned about saving enough for retirement, and there continues to be underlying confusion about transfer rights and benefits for same-sex couples.

Two-thirds (66%) of LGBT investors are optimistic about the political direction of the country, compared with 43% of the overall population.  Three in four expect a stronger U.S. economy over the next two years, much higher than the general population of 47%.  And two-thirds (65%) anticipate stronger local economies over the next two years, compared to 45% overall.

LGBT investors are more positive regarding their current financial situation than the general public.  Three in five (59%) report they feel financially comfortable, compared to 51% of all U.S. adults.  Two-thirds (66%) are confident in their financial future versus 52% of U.S. adults.  LGBT adults are also more likely to report being better off financially then they were three years ago (65%), compared to 51% of all adults.  And two thirds (66%) feel secure in their current job situation, higher than U.S. adults (55%).

“While optimism and confidence among LGBT investors remain high, there is clearly an awareness gap related to the very complex financial issues facing same-sex couples,” said Kyle Young, Financial Advisor and Vice-President, Investment Officer for Wells Fargo Advisors.  “Lack of Federal recognition of same-sex couples adds many layers of challenges to retirement and estate planning for all LGBT couples.  Proper analysis and planning that comes with a financial advisor who understands the landscape of today’s differing state-by-state approaches is essential.”

LGBT adults appear to be taking more steps to better save and prepare for retirement. On average, non-retired and retired LGBT adults report higher median net savings than the overall population. Over half of LGBT non-retirees (55%) report having a detailed retirement savings plan in place, compared to 42% of all adults.  These LGBT respondents are more likely to have developed plans with a paid financial advisor (42%) while an additional 22% used web-based tools and calculators to assist in the process.

Nevertheless, concerns remain.  Many LGBT respondents are concerned about saving enough for retirement (53%), and only 55% are confident they will be able to afford their current lifestyles in retirement.  In a list of financial concerns, “saving for retirement” was the top concern for pre-retired LGBT respondents at 38%, followed by healthcare costs (18%) and paying monthly bills (16%).

LGBT adults with children consistently report more financial challenges, including preparing for retirement, than LGBT adults without children.  LGBT with children feel less financially comfortable than those without (42% vs. 61%), and reported less confident in their financial future (40% with children vs. 68% without).  LGBT with children are also twice as likely to report that high living expenses are limiting their ability to save for the future (51% with children vs. 26% without).

Almost all LGBT adults (92%) believe that within their lifetime, federal laws on survivor rights and benefits will become the same for same-sex couples as they are for heterosexual couples.  Nearly half (43%) believe this will happen within the next three years, while 22% believe it will happen in the next four or five years.

Despite heightened attention to same-sex marriage and civil unions, tremendous confusion remains around transfer rights and benefits for same-sex couples.  Nearly half (44%) of LGBT respondents did not know that Social Security income and benefits are not transferable to the spouse or partner in a same sex couple.  Similarly, fewer than half (41-47%) of LGBT respondents correctly answered that other assets and benefits like real estate (47%), life insurance (44%) and retirement savings (41%) may be transferable depending on the state in which the same-sex couple resides.  Only 36% of LGBT adults know that Federal taxes on survivor assets or benefits are different for the spouse/partner in a same-sex marriage than in a heterosexual marriage.