Entertainment Love and Romance The Benefits of Gay Marriage Gay Marriage Is Now Recognized in All 50 States Share PINTEREST Email Print Cavan Images/Iconica/Getty Images Love and Romance LGBTQ Relationships Sexuality Divorce Teens Friendship By Ramon Johnson Updated February 12, 2018 Gay marriage has been legally recognized in America since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 that the Constitution guarantees same-sex partners the right to wed. Justice Kennedy stated in the decision that marriage is "a keystone of our social order," and the 5-4 Supreme Court vote effectively prohibited individual states from banning same-sex marriages. The decision opened wide the door for homosexual married couples to claim the same numerous benefits awarded to heterosexual couples. Prior to this U.S. Supreme Court decision, only 19 states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex marriages. An earlier 2013 Supreme Court decision declared parts of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional and paved the way for married same-sex couples in these states to claim the same protections and benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. But this 2013 decision did not require states that did not recognize same-sex marriage to begin doing so. Legal Rights Accorded to Married Couples According to a report given to the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. General Accounting Office, here are a few of the benefits provided by the federal government to legally married couples: Access to shopping in military stores based on a spouse's military statusAssumption of a spouse’s pensionBereavement leaveImmigration rightsSharing insurance coverage Making medical decisions on behalf of a spouse Sick leave to care for spouse Social Security survivor benefitsTax breaks, such as the ability to file joint married returns Veteran’s discountsVisitation with spouse in a hospital or prison State-Level Benefits Many state-level benefits mirror those that are available at the federal level, but some states offer additional rights. Assumption of a spouse’s pensionAutomatic inheritance rights -- It is illegal and statutorily impossible to disown your spouse in every state but Georgia Automatic housing lease transferBereavement leaveBurial determinationChild custodyCrime victim’s recovery benefitsDivorce protectionsDomestic violence protectionExemption from property taxes on transfers after a spouse's death Immunity from testifying against your spouseInsurance breaksJoint adoption and foster careJoint bankruptcyJoint parenting with regard to insurance coverage and school records Making medical decisions on behalf of your spouse Certain property rightsReduced rate membershipsSick leave to care for your spouse Visitation with your spouse's children in the event of divorce, although this may ultimately be decided on a case-by-case basisVisitation with your spouse in a hospital or prison Wrongful death and loss of consortium claims and benefits. Marriage vs. Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships Many of the states that did not recognize same-sex marriages before the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision nonetheless permitted registered domestic partnerships and civil unions between same-sex couples. It's important to note that these arrangements are not the same as marriage. They often convey limited, similar rights as marriage, but you might find that you don't enjoy the full scope of benefits afforded by the 2015 decision unless you and your partner take steps to legally marry. See the full list of marriage benefits from the US Government.