DOMA is Dead: What Does It Mean for Wisconsin?

Story Date: 
Jun 27, 2013

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), many of us are wondering: how does this affect Wisconsin?

While the DOMA ruling is a tremendous step forward, unfortunately, the court's decision doesn't change our state marriage laws. It simply says that once a couple is legally married, the federal government will respect that marriage for federal purposes  and award them equal protection under the law. The next step for us here in Wisconsin is to change our state constitution, which won't be easy. 

Until same-sex couples can marry in every state in the nation, there will be uncertainty about the extent to which same-sex spouses will receive federal marital-based protections nationwide. For federal programs that assess marital status based on the law of a state that does not respect marriages of same-sex couples, such as Wisconsin, those state laws will likely pose obstacles for legally married couples and surviving spouses in accessing federal protections and responsibilities.

There are more than 1,100 places in federal law where a protection or responsibility is based on marital status. The ruling striking down DOMA will not be effective until 25 days from the decision, but even when effective, federal agencies — large bureaucracies — might need and take some time to change forms, implement procedures, train personnel, and efficiently incorporate same-sex couples into the spousal-based system.

The ACLU and other pro-marriage rights organizations have created a detailed guide with information on many of the ways federal agencies accord legal respect to married same-sex couples. Click the links below to read about federal benefits regarding the following topics.

Disclaimer:  This information is not intended as legal advice and does not address Wisconsin-specific considerations. Before making decisions about your family and relationship, you should consult an attorney about your situation and the pros an cons of various options. Click here for a list of attorneys who work on LGBT family law issues.

These fact sheets were produced by the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and OutServe-SLDN.

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