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Continued: High court has a range of options on how to rule on same-sex marriage cases

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  • Last update: March 23, 2013 - 9:50 PM

A: No, although there are some technical issues that could get in the way of a significant ruling.

Q: What happens if the court upholds Section 3 of DOMA, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman?

A: Upholding DOMA would not affect state laws but would keep in place federal statutes and rules that prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving a range of benefits that are available to married people. These benefits include breaks on estate taxes, health insurance for spouses of federal workers and Social Security survivor benefits.

Q: What if it strikes down DOMA?

A: That would allow legally married gay couples, or in some cases, a surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage, to receive benefits and tax breaks resulting from more than 1,000 federal statutes in which marital status is relevant. For Edith Windsor, 83, a New York widow whose case is before the court, such a ruling would give her a refund of $363,000 in estate taxes that were paid after the death of her wife, Thea Spyer.

Q: What are the procedural problems?

A: There are questions about whether House Republicans have the right to defend the law because the Obama administration decided not to. If the court finds that it does not have the authority to hear the case, Windsor probably would get her refund because she won in the lower courts, but there would be no definitive decision and DOMA would remain on the books.

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