On January 6, gay couples across the state of Florida were finally allowed to marry their life partners right here in their state of residence. In addition, marriages that were performed in other jurisdictions which had already legalized gay marriages became valid in the state of Florida. There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections that were previously denied to Florida residents who wished to make their marriage legal. Now that it is, here are some things you should know about a few of those rights.
The federal government started recognizing same-sex marriages in 2013. Now that those marriages will be legal in Florida, married couples will be able to access social security benefits jointly upon retirement. Should one of the spouses in the relationship pass away, the surviving spouse will be able to receive social security benefits. Also, should a spouse pass away and they leave behind a minor child, there will be a stipend available to the surviving parent to care for the child until he or she reaches the age of 18.
2014 will be the final year that married couples have to file separate tax returns to the state of Florida. Taxes for 2015 and afterwards will take your married status into account not just for federal taxes but also for state taxes. Domestic partner benefits have been available in Florida for quite some time but now businesses operating in the state will have to offer health benefits to spouses of their employees starting this year. Publix recently announced they will do so starting at the beginning of this year. Look for more Florida-based companies to follow suit.
When you file your taxes, keep in mind that an employer’s premium paid on healthcare is excluded from the employee’s taxable income. However, when part or all of the premium is paid for the spouse, that is included in the taxable income.
Families who raise either a biological child (in which one of the spouses is the blood parent) or an adopted child will be eligible for the earned income tax credit, head of household tax credit and the child tax credit starting with the calendar year 2015. While you can’t file for it for this April, it is indeed coming. Exciting news, considering gay adoption was only legalized in Florida just four short years ago.
Couples who are selling a house who want to keep a certain portion out of their taxable income can double the amount they wish to exclude now that marriages are legalized in Florida. Before, only $250,000 could be excluded by only one person. Now, $500,000 can be excluded in a joint tax filing by the couple.
Also, the estate tax will be exempt for married couples. Gone are the days where a widow or widower would have to pay taxes on their deceased partner’s estate because their marriage was not recognized legally by the state and federal governments.
Many couples with one partner from a foreign country have already successfully applied for green cards when marriage equality came to their states of residence. Now that Florida is joining those ranks, Florida residents will also be able to apply for green cards for their spouses. In nearly all cases, married couples have their request for permanent residency granted as a result of their marriage.
Legal spouses will be able to visit their partners in the hospital and make decisions for them as they are now considered “family” under the eyes of the law. Many hospitals had already allowed for couples to do so but now this eliminates any ambiguity. Spouses will be able to make decisions for one another should one become ill and need medical care. Before, a binding medical power of attorney was needed. Now one of those couldn’t hurt anything, but by law a spouse is designated to speak on the behalf of their ill partner. A medical power of attorney is still needed should one half of the couple become incapacitated, so direction regarding health care can be recognized as coming from one party and one party only.
Now that marriage equality is recognized by the state and federal governments, many of the rights we’ve fought long and hard for are finally here. Visit eqfl.org or hrc.org for a more detailed outline of the rights you are entitled to as married Floridians.