Legal benefits take effect for gay married couples

Couples now eligible for retirement benefits, other changes in works

The first significant change affecting gay married couples takes effect Monday.
The first significant change affecting gay married couples takes effect Monday.

SAN ANTONIO – Monday marked the first day that legally married gay couples are entitled to their spouse's retirement benefits as a result of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between and man and woman.

"The definition of 'spouse' and 'marriage' has totally changed," said Kim Ford, a certified public accountant with Hill & Ford P.C.

That redefining has employers nationwide re-examining their employee benefits.

Gay couples can now name their spouses as beneficiaries on their 401k plans, for example.

"Everything needs to be looked at," Ford said. "All employees need to look at benefits and start asking questions to their employers."

And that, Ford adds, will be a conversation that's never been had as legally married gay couples can also begin receiving health insurance benefits for their spouse.

"Under IRS code and other federal regulations, the word 'spouse' and 'married' are used thousands of times. And like I said before, the definitions have changed," Ford said.

The best way for gay employees to begin seeing the benefits of those changes is to start asking their employer and HR departments questions.

"Everyone's situation is different because everyone's employer is different. Every employer's plan is different," Ford added. "And there's probably many other things we haven't thought of yet because its all just so new."

Gay marriage is not recognized in Texas.

Even though gay couples would have to be legally married outside of  Texas, they are still entitled to these federal benefits.

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