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    My wife and I decided to get married in 1995, but we couldn’t reap all the financial benefits of marriage for 20 more years

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    The author, Laura McCamy, and her wife.

    Laura McCamy

    When my California marriage to my wife became legal federally in 2015, we could finally file taxes jointly.
    Marriage has allowed us to share health insurance benefits.
    The legal right to marry guarantees our spousal property rights and makes me feel financially secure.

    It’s been almost 10 years since the federal government legally recognized my marriage, and it’s easy to become complacent and forget what life was like before.

    Still, it’s important to remember all I’ve gained. In 2022, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court signaled its willingness to take away the right for same-sex couples to marry. Here are just a few of the many financial advantages of being married that are still at stake.

    Filing a joint tax return

    From when my partner and I decided to get “married” in 1995 — we jumped over a broom because we had no way to legally marry at that time — checking the box for “single” on tax returns felt like a demeaning lie, but we had no choice because the government didn’t recognize our marriage.

    Then, in 2008, the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and we were legally married in our home state. But we still had a long way to go.

    Prop 8 passed in November 2008, making same-sex marriage once again illegal in California. Our tax returns got really complicated. We could file jointly in California, but the federal government still considered us single, so our tax preparer had to reconcile the numbers between our two returns, costing us extra money in tax prep.

    In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationally, and that’s when my wife and I started to truly reap the benefits of marriage.

    Most married couples save money filing taxes jointly, and that’s certainly been true for my wife and me. We saved on taxes when she returned to school while I was working. We saved when I made a career change, and my earnings dipped for a while.

    Best of all, we can check the “married” box on our tax returns and every other form.

    Pre-tax insurance

    I currently get my health insurance through my wife’s work, and the amount is taken out before tax. That means she doesn’t pay income tax on the cost of my health insurance, saving us the taxes on about $12,000 a year.

    Before we were legally married, my wife had health insurance through her job, but she wasn’t able to add me to the policy. The insurer could choose whether to recognize same-sex spouses, and it chose not to. I couldn’t afford insurance at that time, so I was uninsured. By the time she quit her job to go to grad school, I could put her on my work insurance, but I had to pay income tax on the cost, because the federal government didn’t yet recognize our marriage.

    Being able to share coverage benefits our physical and financial health.

    Owning property together

    When we bought our condo in 2004, we weren’t legally married, so we couldn’t just let the title company take care of the deed. We had to consult an attorney to make sure our ownership interests were described in a way that gave us rights as close to spouses as possible, an extra expense married couples don’t incur. Now, our deed reflects our status as a married couple.

    California is a community property state, so property acquired during marriage is assumed to belong equally to both spouses. That includes more than real estate. I worked for an attorney who helped gay couples with estate planning and probate before marriage equality, and we occasionally had homophobic families sweep in and take all the belongings from an apartment after one member of the couple died. Without a will, which many people don’t have, the surviving partner had no rights to the possessions in his own home. Now, marriage protects our rights to our joint property.

    Freedom from financial fear

    After the decision to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, I felt like a full citizen for the first time. I didn’t recognize the base level of financial insecurity I had lived with until it was gone.

    I relish the opportunity to lead an average and slightly boring life regardless of whom I married. And I will continue to reap the financial rewards of being married in the future, including spousal retirement benefits from Social Security and my wife’s pension.

    But if our rights and recognition of our marriage are threatened, I will be on the frontlines again, fighting back.

    Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three fiduciary financial advisors that serve your area in minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. Start your search now.

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