The practical impact of Wednesday’s Defense of Marriage Act ruling on gay married couples who live in Georgia is, at least for now, minimal.
But President Barack Obama said his administration is deciding how broadly the decision will be interpreted. And legal experts predicted the ruling will spawn more litigation if federal benefits continue to be denied to gay married couples in Georgia and other states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
More immediately, it appears same-sex married couples living on military bases in Georgia will be entitled to the more than 1,100 federal tax, health care, employment and pension benefits that straight couples enjoy, lawyers said. The ruling also indicates that U.S. government employees in same-sex marriages should begin receiving Social Security and federal retirement system benefits.
Because Georgia bans gay marriage and does not recognize marriages of its gay couples performed in other states, it is unclear how many, if any, of the federal benefits enjoyed by straight couples can now be extended to gay married couples in Georgia, legal experts said.
“Nobody is quite sure what the implications will be,” said Hillel Levin, a University of Georgia law professor who has researched the issue. “I wish I could be more specific, but the truth is this is going to be a big open question.”