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December 6, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Update: Maryland, Washington, Maine and Minnesota

On November 6, 2012, the issue of same-sex marriage was on the ballot in four states.  In two of these states, Maryland and Washington, the voters were asked to affirm same-sex laws previously passed.  In both states, the laws were affirmed.  In Maine, the voters were asked to and did approve same-sex marriage. 

In Minnesota, voters defeated an amendment that would have defined marriage as being between a man and woman in the state’s constitution.  While this does not specifically sanction same-sex marriage, it certainly opens the door for later approval.

It is very important to note the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the state to opposite-sex married spouses are extended to same-sex married spouses.

Self-funded plans subject to ERISA are not subject to state law and, therefore, are not bound by these requirements. The recognition of same-sex marriage in these states does not apply to federal law such as federal tax law, federal social security law, and federal level employee benefit laws, among others.

Maryland

On March 1, 2012, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012, which formally recognizes all marriages that would otherwise be valid in the State without regard to the sex of the parties. The law is effective January 1, 2013.

Religious officials are not required to solemnize or officiate any marriage or religious rite of marriage. Religious organizations, associations or societies or any organization controlled by a religious institution can also refuse to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.

Currently, the Maryland tax law follows federal law. There is no federal tax advantage to same-sex spouses. Thus, the same would be true for Maryland income tax.

Washington

On February 13, 2012, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed the same-sex marriage law which formally recognizes all marriages that would otherwise be valid in the State without regard to the sex of the parties. The law took effect on June 7, 2012.

In order to enter into a marriage, the individuals must be at least 18 years old, not a party to another domestic partnership, civil union or marriage, not within a certain degree of kinship, and mentally competent at the time of the marriage.

The domestic partnership law was further revised. Now, only couples (both same and opposite-sex) where one of partners is at least 62 years old may enter into a state-registered domestic partnership. Previously, same-sex partners could be under age 62. The minimum age to enter into a state sanctioned domestic partnership continues to be 18. This provision will take effect June 30, 2014.

Maine

Same-sex marriage was approved by voters through a ballot initiative.  The referendum can take up to 30 days to certify and the law would take effect after another 30 days.  Same-sex marriages could be performed starting as early as January 5, 2013.

The law also provides for religious freedom, stating that: no member of the clergy is required to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs, and no place of worship is required to host a marriage in violation of the beliefs of that religious organization.

Table of Marriage Recognition in the States

Below is a list summarizing the type of relationships recognized, including opposite-sex civil unions, and the effective date of each jurisdictional law. 

Type of Relationship Recognized as of December 1, 2012

 

 

Jurisdiction

Marriage

Same-Sex Civil Union

Opposite-Sex Civil Union

Effective Date

Connecticut

X

 

 

October 28, 2008

Delaware

 

X

 

January 1, 2012

District of Columbia

X

 

 

March 3, 2010

Hawaii

 

X

X

January 1, 2012

Illinois

 

X

X

June 1, 2011

Iowa

X

 

 

April 3, 2009

Maine

X

 

 

January 5, 2013

Maryland

X

 

 

January 1, 2013

Massachusetts

X

 

 

May 17, 2004

New Hampshire

X

 

 

January 1, 2010

New Jersey

 

X

 

February 19, 2007

New York

X

 

 

July 24, 2011

Rhode Island

 

X

 

July 1, 2011

Vermont

X

 

 

September 1, 2009

Washington

X

 

 

June 7, 2012

Special note about California: California recognizes marriages between same-sex partners that occurred between June 16, 2008 and November 4, 2008. The issue of same-sex marriage in California is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

The information contained in this Benefit Beat is not intended to be legal, accounting, or other professional advice, nor are these comments directed to specific situations.

As required by U.S. Treasury rules, we inform you that, unless expressly stated otherwise, any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this Benefit Beat is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any person for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Service.

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