How the DOMA Ruling Affects Children

July 1, 2013  |  
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Last week, the Supreme Court made a historic decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), giving same-sex couples access to the same federal benefits as straight couples. It’s being called a big victory for adults, but it also has far-reaching consequences for the children of gay couples.

A statement from the American Association of Pediatrics identifies the changes as first and foremost an important emotional boost. “The American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated that civil marriage for same-gender couples is the best way to guarantee benefits and security for their children. If a child has two loving and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond, it’s in the best interest of their children that legal institutions allow them to do so. Stable relationships with caring adults are important for children, and so are financial security, social support and access to health care” In delivering the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said children would perhaps be the biggest beneficiaries of the changes. “[DOMA] humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”

But how will the new federal benefits actually help children? First and foremost, both parents in a same-sex union can claim children on their income taxes. According to USA Today,

“…most married lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers pay more in income taxes than they would if allowed to file as “married, filing jointly,” especially for spouses with very different incomes. For example, a working parent with a taxable income of $60,000 a year and a stay-at-home spouse with no income would pay $2,900 more as individuals than filing as a couple.”

With more money a family’s pocket, children can have more of their needs met.

The new ruling also makes it easier for both parents to chip in with caring for a sick child or spouse. Though the federal government already includes gay couples (or anyone “acting as a parent”) in the Family and Medical Leave Act, in states where gay couples aren’t allowed to adopt children, a spouse can now care for a child that doesn’t legally belong to him.

Same-sex military families will receive important benefits, too. If a couple married in one of the states or Washington, D.C. that have legalized gay marriage, they maintain their rights if they’re moved to a base in a state that doesn’t allow gay marriage. Health coverage and other benefits will be extended to military spouses and their children. Unfortunately, the same will not hold true for the VA. That agency makes its decisions based on a couple’s state of residency rather than where they were married.

Binational families can breathe more easily as well. With DOMA overturned, a same-sex partner from another country can now stay in the U.S.  While there’s much the rulings haven’t changed, children are already being called the biggest beneficiaries of DOMA’s demise.

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