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Legal and Financial Considerations for Lesbian and Gay Service Members

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Great strides have been made on behalf of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. The following information will help you understand the benefits and protections for lesbian and gay service members.

Federal legislation

The federal government has worked to ensure that federal benefits for legally married, same-sex couples are implemented.

  • Spousal and family benefits for service members and their same-sex married partners — The Department of Defense extends benefits such as health care and basic allowance for housing to all married service members, regardless of sexual orientation.
  • Taxpayer benefits — For information and guidance on IRS regulations, visit the Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Same-Sex Couples webpage.
  • Social Security benefits — The Social Security Administration processes spousal and survivor benefits for same-sex married couples.
  • ImmigrationU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reviews immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of same-sex spouses in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouses.
  • Family support program — Department of Defense leaders extended access to family support programs and other resources to same-sex couples.

State legislation

The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in 2015, but here are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Taxes — Contact a tax professional to find out if you and your partner may file a joint tax return.
  • Property ownership — If you have property, be sure to familiarize yourself with joint property ownership rules in your state and how they apply to inheritance and property division in a divorce.
  • Parental and adoption rights — In many states, both same-sex partners may not be automatically considered legal parents when the couple has a child or adopts.
  • Inheritance rights — Depending on state laws, same-sex couples may not have the same rights of survivorship protection. Without a will, your property may be distributed according to your state’s rules.
  • Medical decision-making privileges — Medical personnel may look to immediate family members to make these decisions, so be sure you get legal assistance to ensure that you are covered.
  • Housing rights — In states that don’t explicitly prohibit it, same-sex couples may face housing discrimination.

Protect the financial future of yourself and your family

Here are some ways all couples can protect themselves and their families:

  • Know your state and local laws — You will generally have more protections if you are legally married.
  • Begin financial planning — A visit to your installation’s personal financial management office is a great place to start.
  • Create powers of attorney for both partners — A general power of attorney authorizes a person to act on your behalf for most things, while a special power of attorney authorizes your designee to act in your behalf in a specific situation, such as registering a car or getting medical care for your children.
  • Draft a will — A will is a legally binding document that describes how you want your property distributed after your death. It may also include other matters, such as the appointment of your child’s guardian.
  • Create a living will — A living will, or advance medical directive, allows you to describe medical treatments you want in case of injury or illness and to identify someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
  • Title your property jointly — When either partner buys personal property or real estate, you may want to be sure it is titled jointly with rights of survivorship, so the surviving partner receives full ownership.
  • Draft a parenting agreement — For parents who cannot legally share custody of their children, this document helps identify parental rights and responsibilities.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

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