Anyone in a same-sex partnership in Little Rock is likely aware that the Supreme Court of the United States is set to hear a case challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act this month. While same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Arkansas, if the court chooses to overturn the law it could have wide-reaching effects on same-sex couples in Arkansas.

The case in question deals with estate tax. After spending decades together, one of the women in a same-sex marriage died. The two women had been married legally in Canada and then returned to the United States. When the woman died, however, her wife was unable to collect the full amount of the money her spouse had left her. According to federal law and the Act, the two women were not married and, thus, could not take advantage of the spousal exception to the estate tax.

The court could have a much larger impact that just declaring the Act unconstitutional with regard to the estate tax, however. Say the court overturns the law, this could mean that anyone with a valid same-sex marriage, including those couples who live in Arkansas and were legally married outside of the state, may be able to jointly file their taxes. It could also pave the way for many more instances of federal recognition.

The Supreme Court is not expected to return a decision until June, but couples in Little Rock may be anxiously awaiting some news on whether their relationships may receive federal recognition.

Source: Thomson Reuters, “Analysis: Death, taxes and the Supreme Court’s gay marriage case,” Kim Dixon, March 12, 2013

Learn more about how a family law attorney can help people in same-sex partnerships protect themselves by visiting our website.