I don’t have time to write this up in the kind of detail I would like, and I’m sure somebody somewhere has probably covered all the bases. (For what it’s worth, I did my bit here. The Washington Blade has local coverage about the opposition, and new D.C. “resident” Henry Jackson’s dishonest attempt to claim D.C. residency in order to stop the law from taking effect, and ) But this item from the Washington City Paper is good news.
If you’re a same-sex couple married legally in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, California (in the months it was permitted), or in other countries, congratulations: The District of Columbia now considers you to be married, too.
At this minute, a 30-day congressional review period has expired, and you’re now free to enjoy all the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage in the District. (That includes divorce, incidentally.)
…Now look for the real fight to begin—over performing same-sex marriages in the District. At-Large Councilmember David Catania is all but certain to introduce a bill permitting that in the fall; opponents are likely to pursue a ballot initiative, which will end up being adjudicated by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
It’s unlikely that this will have any special impact on my family, since the hubby and I (a) opted not to fly to another state to get married and not have it recognized when we got home, and (b) we don’t live in D.C. anymore.
But we do live in Maryland, Where domestic partner laws went into effect on July 1st.
What does this new law do?
This law adds “domestic partner” to the list of family members who are exempted from paying state inheritance tax on certain property that passes to them from their deceased domestic partner.
Currently, certain family members do not have to pay a tax when they inherit property. This includes grandparents, parents, spouses, children or spouse of a child, and siblings. Now, the law includes same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners as well.
This exemption would apply to the primary residence the couple held in joint tenancy at the time of one partner’s death.
Who and what does the inheritance tax apply to?
The inheritance tax is only one of three “death taxes” that may apply to transfers at death. There is also the Maryland estate tax and the federal estate tax. The important distinction among them is that the Maryland estate tax applies only to estates valued at more than $1 million, and the federal estate tax applies only to estates worth more than $3.5 million. The inheritance tax, on the other hand, applies to any bequest of more than $1,000 to anyone who is not a close relative, as long as the value of the overall estate is at least $30,000.
If you do live in D.C., and you did get married in another state, The Washington Post has a helpful FAQ on what you can do now, if you choose.
At 12:01 a.m. today, under a law approved in May, the District began recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. Here’s a Q&A to help couples navigate the changes.
Can I now get married in the District?
No. Issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples remains illegal. But the D.C. Council is expected to take up a legalization bill in the fall.
If my spouse and I were legally married in another jurisdiction and now live in Maryland or Virginia, can we move to the District and be recognized?
Yes. The District will recognize couples legally married outside the city.
Where can my partner and I get legally married?
Same-sex couples can get married in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will follow in the next several months.
Will any other jurisdictions be recognized?
Yes. The city will recognize same-sex couples who were married in California before the November referendum that reversed legalization of gay nuptials in that state. Legal marriages in foreign countries will also be recognized.
What rights do same-sex couples have?
Gay couples are entitled to more than 200 legal rights extended to all married couples. The rights include: inheritance, benefits for spouses of employees at private companies and in the District’s government and spousal immunity from testifying against each other.
Mind you, this doesn’t have anything to do with federal law, but both are important steps towards equality. Let’s hope things keep moving in that direction.