DOMA ruling affects Minnesotans and companies

6:12 PM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - The demise of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) leaves Minnesota same sex couples and the companies that employ them recalculating their benefits package. While the change will almost certainly benefit employees, it is not clear what the impact on their employers will be.

"There are various predictions about the costs," explained Megan Hladilek of the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm in Minneapolis. "There could be cost savings and there could be increased costs, so, it might be a net."

Hladilek said she spoke with the Minnesota Department of Revenue and they were waiting for the DOMA ruling to begin deciding what the income tax implications for individuals, couples and businesses would be. She referred to the "imputed" wages that are not counted for tax purposes in a worker's paycheck.

"So, for example," said Hladilek, "if you do offer coverage to a same sex couple, meaning specifically health coverage, then that coverage will now be tax free, we think, under both state and federal income taxes."

In that example, both employer and employees would see a savings in taxes. Hladilek said she hopes that the IRS and the Social Security Administration will clarify what the DOMA ruling's impacts will be on costs.

Ann Kaner-Roth, Executive Director of Project 515, was elated by the ruling. Project 515 is a Minnesota-based non-profit aimed at providing 515 benefits of marriage to Minnesota gay couples. She said the DOMA ruling expands that effort to the federal realm.

"It means that same sex couples who are legally married in Minnesota will be able to access the 1138 federal benefits that are automatically afforded to legally married couples by the federal level," said Kaner-Roth.

She said the impact of the ruling will be limited geographically. "We do not think that that extends to couples that are living in states that do not have marriage equality, but I think some of that will come out in the analysis as this moves forward."

For Susan Cogger, 63, of Minneapolis and her partner, Terry Williams, plans to possibly retire to a state like North Carolina may be dropped, since North Carolina does not have gay marriage. Still, the DOMA ruling was a thrill for Cogger.

"You know, I have cried for so many days now, listening to the news, crying with joy," said Cogger. "I mean it has just been a phenomenal year, just been amazing. From the election last November (when a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was defeated), to our state's decision (allowing gay marriage) and then this morning with DOMA, fabulous!"

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