Legal and Financial Considerations for Lesbian and Gay Service Members
Great strides have been made on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The following information will help you understand benefits and protections for lesbian and gay service members.
The federal government is currently working to ensure federal benefits for legally married, same-sex couples are implemented. Here is a guide to what is currently in place:
- Spouse and family benefits for service members and their same-sex married partners — The Department of Defense extends benefits, such as healthcare and basic allowance for housing, to all married service members, regardless of sexual orientation.
- Taxpayer benefits—For current information and guidance on Internal Revenue Service regulations, visit the Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Same-Sex Couples web page.
- Social Security benefits — The Social Security Administration processes spousal and survivor benefits for same-sex married couples.
- Immigration — The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reviews immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.
- Family support program — Defense Department leaders extended access to family support programs and other resources to same-sex couples.
While the Supreme Court recently legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, those states that previously did not recognize same-sex marriages may take some time to implement the new ruling. 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 own property, you will want to familiarize yourself with joint property ownership rules in your state and how it applies to inheritance and property division in a divorce.
- Parental and adoption rights— In many states, both same-sex partners are not 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 often look to immediate family members while an unmarried partner has no rights to make medical decisions.
- 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 another person who should make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them on your own.
- 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 when it comes to parenting.