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Pending Us Supreme Court Cases May Have Consequences For Nj Civil Unions

This June, decisions are expected in two landmark cases which will decide the fate of what is known as the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s ban on gay marriage. The first case, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-3077, will decide the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act. That Act, in sum, allows the federal government to refuse to recognize the legal status of same sex relationships across the country for purposes such as estate and inheritance laws, federal tax law, laws surrounding health insurance, social security, retirement accounts, and much more. If the Court overturns the Act, those individuals in Civil Unions in New Jersey may be permitted a host of new federal rights, such as the ability to file a joint tax return and acquire and inherit property under more favorable tax laws. There are, approximately, more than 1,000 federal laws and programs that benefit those who are married but do not apply to those in legally recognized same sex relationships in various states.

Further, if and when it is necessary to dissolve the Civil Union, one may be able to take advantage of favorable means to divide pension and retirement accounts for tax purposes, such as what is known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. There would also be many other advantages to the divorcing same sex couple that are currently afforded to those dissolving a marriage. The full import of the Court’s decision cannot be ascertained until June.

The Court’s decision in another case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, 12-144, may have even broader implications. This case, among other things, challenges the constitutionality of California’s voter’s referendum which invalidated a California Supreme Court decision holding that same sex couples in that state were entitled to marry. Depending on the scope of the decision, there could be far-reaching implications for New Jersey’s Civil Union law and other laws across the country that fall short of marriage. Stay tuned…