Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ruling That Gay Couples May Not Be Denied Federal Benefits

Scales of JusticeEvery day there is good news in terms of legal cases being decided on a federal level that are finding discriminatory practices against the LGBT community unconstitutional.

I wrote last time about the California decision ordering the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, (Calpers) to offer to same-sex couples and domestic partners the same long-term care insurance benefits it offers to straight married couples. And several weeks ago I wrote about a three judge decision from California’s Appeals Court finding that the state’s ban on same sex marriage violates the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

This week, another Federal Appeals Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, determined it is discriminatory for the government to deny the same federal benefits to same sex couples that is provided to straight married couples. Many legal scholars find this opinion meaningful and important and, according to Geoffrey Stone, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, “[i]t is another illustration of the growing consensus of the judiciary about the unconstitutionality of discriminating against gays and lesbians in the realm of marriage.”

So, assuming the government must treat same sex partners similar to straight married couples, how might you be affected personally?

For example, same-sex partners do not have access to:

  • Federal family leave benefits

  • Equivalent Medicaid spend-downs

  • Social Security Survivor benefits

  • Bereavement leave

  • Automatic inheritance of jointly owned real estate and personal property

  • Filing taxes as a married couple

I will continue to keep you informed of legal cases that deal with these LGBT related issues in addition to providing insight on legal issues of interest.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to comment on and please let me know if you have something to share on this blog.

Submit your questions for Ellen here.


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Ellen S. Fischer of the Law Office of Ellen S. Fischer has been working closely with individuals and families throughout the greater Philadelphia region for more than 20 years. Ellen received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Temple University and returned to earn a Juris Doctor degree from the Temple University School of Law. Ellen serves on a number of leadership committees and is a member of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (GALLOP). In addition to LGBTQ services, Ellen's practice areas are family law and personal injury.