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July 16, 2015

Healthcare and other implications of Obergefell v Hodges, by Elizabeth Vandenberg, Lifecycle WomanCare Intern

On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court released its impactful decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. The ruling comes on the heels of a Supreme Court case from 2012, United States v. Windsor, which allowed couples in states that sanctioned same-sex marriages to receive federal benefits of marriage. With Obergefell, same-sex marriage and its federal and other benefits can be a reality for same-sex couples no matter what state they live in.

This has not only brought forth a lot of rainbows on Facebook, but also the ruling’s implications go far beyond that. The health care implications of these two rulings are huge. Now all married same-sex couples can, in every state, receive federal marriage benefits, be beneficiaries of each other’s insurance plans more easily (such as insurance offered through their spouse’s employer or through a spouse’s veteran status), be afforded spousal visitation rights at hospitals, and have next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions. If one same-sex spouse is laid off, they can still maintain health insurance through their spouse. If someone’s same-sex partner is in the hospital with cancer, or is in a car accident, their spouse can visit and can approve needed surgery. In short, this ruling means better access to health care and better support for loved ones of people receiving health care, and this is critically important for all of us.

Of course, marriage shouldn’t be the end. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are still more vulnerable to being fired and other employment discrimination in most states. The frequency of homelessness, suicide for LGBTQIA+ youth, and violence against LGBTQIA+ people, especially trans women of color, are still far too high and need serious action taken. Still, we greatly applaud Obergefell and its extension of much needed protections to LGTQIA+ people. Here’s hoping there’s more to come.