Yesterday, New York Representative Jerrold Nadler introduced the federal Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would give federal recognition to same-sex marriages performed in the states where they are legal. The bill would not completely overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore the marital status of same-sex couples wed in other states.
The Respect for Marriage Act would entitle married same-sex couples to all the federal benefits and obligations of marriage, whether they live in the state where they were married or another state. Federal benefits include things like Social Security and joint returns on federal taxes.
But states could still forbid same-sex marriages, and states that do not perform same-sex marriages would not be compelled to give state-level marital benefits to married same-sex couples. State-level benefits of marriage include joint returns on state taxes and the right not to testify against one's spouse in state court.