The Obergefell Case: Relevance for Modern Families & the Road Ahead
One of the most prominent changes to come in this turbulent year was the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With the elevation of Judge Amy Barrett to fill her seat come questions regarding cases that have passed through the Court before and may come under ﬁre again.
One case from recent years that changed the tax landscape for modern families was Obergefell v. Hodges, which ensured the ability to acquire a marriage license regardless of sexual orientation in every state. The ruling overturned Baker v. Nelson, which allowed bans on same-sex marriage to continue at the state level.
Along with the landmark ruling in Obergefell came the ability for all married couples to receive tax benefits once reserved for opposite sex couples only. At the federal level, filing joint tax returns enables couples to benefit from estate and gift tax exemptions, family partnerships, and estate planning benefits. In many jurisdictions, filing jointly is a net benefit to married couples due to lower effective tax rates and other planning considerations. These include eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits, as well as the ability to lawfully immigrate to the United States.
While Judge Barrett has not stated how she would rule on any given issue that might come before the court, her nomination from the conservative side of the aisle gives us a possible indication. It is important to pay attention to the Supreme Court’s docket in the coming months and years for cases that could have overlapping themes presented during Obergefell. While the decision currently stands, future rulings may change the interpretation of constitutional law and the practical effects for modern families, based on the makeup of the Supreme Court bench at the time.