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The Legal Benefits of Marriage

Persons who are legally married have long enjoyed a wide range of benefits in the United States, including:

  • Employment benefits—health insurance, family leave, bereavement leave
  • Family benefits—adoption rights, joint foster care rights, property division upon separation or divorce
  • Government benefits—Social Security, Medicare, disability, VA benefits and public assistance
  • Tax and estate planning benefits—option to file joint tax returns, right to inheritance of estate, exemptions from estate and gift taxes
  • Medical and death benefits—right to visit spouse or make medical decisions for incapacitated spouse, participation in burial and funeral arrangements
  • Consumer benefits—discounts to families or couples

The Validation of Same Sex Marriage

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That ruling, however, applied only to the availability of federal benefits, and specifically held that federal benefits are available only in those states that have legalized same-sex marriage. To date, 17 states grant licenses for same-sex marriages and another eight are waiting the decision of state supreme courts.

Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage is one that is recognized under state law without the requirement of a ceremony or a license. Currently, there are 12 states that recognize common law marriage. While the requirements for common law marriage differ from state to state, some of the common denominators include cohabitating for a specific period of time or holding yourself out as married.

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