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Originally published Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 1:46 PM

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Some of the federal benefits gained by same-sex spouses

Seattle Times Washington bureau

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Wednesday’s ruling opens the way for a host of benefits for married gays and lesbians that now apply only to straight couples.

In Washington state, same-sex couples already enjoy limited parity in benefits, thanks to last year’s passage of a gay-marriage law and domestic partnership measures that came before it.

Those gains, however, have been piecemeal, and sometimes dependent on voluntary compliance. For instance, Boeing earlier this year negotiated with its engineering and technical workers’ union to grant same-sex survivor pension benefits, which the company then extended to all its employees.

But the high court’s ruling should bring wholesale changes to federal benefits.

Among them:

Benefits for federal employees, both civilian and military, ncluding health insurance coverage, survivor pension payments, veterans benefits and others. The Pentagon has already announced it would immediately issue equal benefits to all service members in same-sex marriages.

Health coverage, including COBRA benefits, for spouses of people who work for large private employers like Microsoft and Starbucks with self-insured plans. Many companies have voluntarily extended such benefits; those now will be mandatory.

Immigration: The right to sponsor a spouse for permanent residency or citizenship.

Inheritance: Allows same-sex partner to inherit assets even if the spouse dies without a will, and to avoid estate taxes on that inheritance. Also, spouses can give each other money without triggering the gift tax.

Social Security: Allows surviving spouses to collect additional Social Security benefits after a partner’s death.

Income tax: The option to file joint federal income-tax returns. Filing jointly can — but not always — reduce taxable income because of higher deductions and tax credits, including those for child-care expenses and interests paid on student loans.”

Loans: A spouse’s income will be considered for federal loans, such as some student loans.

Kyung Song: 202-383-6108 or ksong@seattletimes.com

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