Seems simple and straight-forward, right? Unfortunately, it’s not. Take two of the programs most important to LGBT elders — Social Security and Medicare. Both of these programs base their marriage eligibility criteria on the law of the state where the person lives at the time of filing for benefits. This means that if Jane and Kathy married in Vermont (where their marriage was legal) but they actually reside in Tennessee (where their marriage is not recognized), the federal government still won’t recognize their marriage for Social Security and Medicare purposes.
It will take some time to sort out all the implications of today’s rulings, and even more time to correct some of the injustices that will remain. In the meantime, a coalition of LGBT groups has put out a very useful series of fact sheets that individuals and advocates should review before they seek out personal legal assistance from a qualified attorney.
Social Security Spousal and Family Protections: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/release_materials/Post-DOMA_FSS_Social-Security_v2.pdf
Medicare Spousal Protections: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/release_materials/Post-DOMA_Medicare_v2.pdf
Other post-DOMA fact sheets: http://thetaskforceblog.org/2013/06/26/heres-almost-everything-you-need-to-know-now-that-doma-is-dead/