AMA Wire

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012

News for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Physicians

Supreme Court to hear cases on Defense of Marriage Act, gay marriage

Supreme Court to hear cases on Defense of Marriage Act, gay marriage

The Supreme Court of the United States recently announced that it will hear two cases related to gay rights this term, one regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and the other concerning Proposition 8, the California measure banning same-sex marriage in the state.

According to an article on the American Civil Liberties Union website, the Defense of Marriage Act plaintiff, Edie Windsor, challenged the constitutionality of the law in federal court after her partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer, passed away. The federal government refused to acknowledge their marriage, the article states, meaning Edie's inheritance was taxed as though they were strangers.

A ruling striking down the law would mean the federal government has to recognize same-sex couples legally married in their state, but it would not extend the right to gay couples in states that do not permit same-sex marriage. Conversely, a broad ruling in the Proposition 8 case could mean that California—and potentially all states—must allow marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court likely will hear both cases in March and issue its opinions sometime in June.  

The AMA has filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, believing there are no meaningful psychological differences between homosexual and heterosexual marriages. View a past edition of AMA Wire for details about the brief.

Retirement seemingly improving for aging gay boomers

As mainstream acceptance of rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people grows, these Americans are finding the proposition of retiring easier.

In the past, GLBT retirees faced significant hurdles, including finding compassionate caregivers, securing visitation rights with their partners and sharing retirement benefits. However, today's gay and lesbian boomers have significantly more protection than their predecessors, according to a report by CNN.

For one, although the Defense of Marriage Act continues to disallow federal acknowledgement of same-sex marriages, the federal Pension Protection Act of 2006 allows a rollover option to non-spousal beneficiaries without incurring a tax penalty, CNN reports. In 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum requiring all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds to respect the rights of all patients to choose who may visit them during a hospital stay—including a same-sex domestic partner, CNN reports.

Retirement facilities are also becoming more gay-friendly. This is partly because of the Administration on Aging's new guidelines, which state that the agencies and programs it funds should recognize the GLBT population as among those with "the greatest social need," CNN reports.