The recent Supreme Court decision tossing part of DOMA, the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, gave gay and lesbian married couples in 13 states and the District of Columbia complete legal and financial equality with their straight counterparts.
The June 26 ruling also put gay couples on notice in Florida that their relationships still arent equal to opposite-sex married couples, according to Gene Sulzberger, a Miami attorney and certified financial planner.
Everybodys on alert and wondering what the future holds, identifying what kind of planning they need to do especially if they are from a state where they were able to get married and are now living here, said Sulzberger, a senior vice president of PRS Investment Advisory in Miami.
Fort Lauderdale real estate broker Keith Blackburn, who wed partner Deven in Washington D.C. on Sept. 17, 2011, describes his marriage experience with government as frustrating and in several ways degrading.
When I filed my income tax forms last year, my status is single. I never really thought about it until I had to sign it, said Blackburn, also president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. My marriage didnt mean anything.
Wednesday night, the gay chamber will host a free workshop, After DOMA: Federal Rights and Benefits, in Wilton Manors. Theres so much misinformation out there and so many people dont realize what DOMA being overturned means, Blackburn said.
In 2008, Florida voters amended the state constitution to ban civil unions and define marriage as between one man and one woman. The U.S. Supreme Court did not decide the constitutionality of DOMAs Section 2, which allows states including Florida to not recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Its just like were unmarried straight people. Were exactly the same, Miami real-estate attorney Steven Baird said. Youre going to be married in New York, youre still treated as single people here.
In Florida, a straight married couple is treated as one person not two when they own real estate together, Baird said.
An example of the disparity: If a Florida man owns a home for 20 years, he is allowed to marry a woman and add her to the title and continue paying all property taxes based upon the homes assessed value from decades before.
But if the homeowner is a gay man who adds a husband to the title, the state will tax the second mans 50 percent ownership based on current market value, not what his husband paid for the house 20 years before.
Same-sex married couples in Florida are in legal limbo, Sulzberger said. There are so many things popping up, its got attorneys heads spinning. Its kind of split the country.
More than 1,100 federal laws, benefits and protections are tied to marital status, according to Human Rights Campaign, the nations largest gay-rights group.
So far, the U.S. government has said it would issue immigration green cards to foreigners married to Americans regardless of where they reside. For couples living in states where gay marriage is legal, the IRS and other federal government agencies will recognize legal unions under all circumstances, including Social Security benefits, pensions and tax payments and penalties.