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Effect Of DOMA Ruling Murky For Idaho, Oregon Couples Married Elsewhere

Charli Deltenre

It's still not clear what the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act will mean for many same-sex couples in the Northwest. That's because of new legal questions surrounding the hundreds of couples who have marriage licenses from Washington state but live in states like Idaho and Oregon that have banned same-sex marriage.

Charli Deltenre of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, still needs to make an extra trip on her wedding day. When she marries her partner in August, they'll first cross the border to Spokane, Wash. “So essentially, we'll have two ceremonies on that day," she says. "One legal and one symbolic, so to speak.”

The decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act doesn't legalize same-sex marriage in Deltenre's home state, nor does it force Idaho to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

And that's where it gets complicated. Federal agencies have different rules for marriage benefits. For some, it matters where you got married. For others, including the IRS, it matters where you live.

Gonzaga University law professor Kim Pearson says that means the out-of-state marriages of many same-sex couples may not count if their state doesn't recognize them. “What it does in effect is highlight the patchwork of laws same-sex couples face, no matter what they're looking at.”

For Charli Deltenre, the rules could be significant. She's uninsured, but her fiance works for the Indian Health Service and receives federal employee health benefits. “I know that currently the other employees, their spouses, heterosexual spouses have the medical benefits and so on. So, the option to have those equal rights would be amazing,” she says.

Legal experts say the Supreme Court ruling will likely prompt rule changes at many federal agencies in the coming weeks.