The right to gay divorce

From Eve Conant at Newsweek:

Currently, even in states where gay marriage is legal, gay divorce is a legal nightmare. Mary Bonauto, civil-rights project director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, says the courts are dealing with all sorts of new issues, such as determining the true length of the partnership. If a couple was together 25 years but was only given the right to marry a few years before divorcing, courts are taking into account the entire relationship when dividing assets. And since the Federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the government from recognizing gay marriage—and, by extension, complicates the possibility of divorce—the tax consequences are severe. In a heterosexual divorce, when you transfer property between spouses, says Bonauto, that doesn’t trigger income-tax consequences, but that’s not the case for gay couples. Gay divorcees aren’t able to deduct alimony payments, nor are they able to benefit from their former spouse’s 401(k). “In a lengthy-enough marriage, that would be considered as marital property on divorce, and state and federal laws can permit one or both spouses to benefit from that down the line. That’s simply not an option for divorcing same-sex couples because of DOMA,” she says. “So you can have a situation where one partner is accumulating the nest egg while the other watches the kids, but it will never be divisible.” The problems increase in a state that does not recognize gay marriage, as is the case with Texas. The couple can potentially be locked forever in unhappy matrimony. “DOMA not only complicates divorce, it undermines the whole purpose of using divorce to end a relationship, fairly settle a couple’s financial affairs, and move on. To say that the federal DOMA throws a wrench in the process would be a gross understatement,” Bonauto says. (Several states, including Texas, also have their own DOMA laws, further complicating the process.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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