The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal government cannot deny legally married same-sex couples the same federal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples, striking down in a 5-4 ruling the Defense of Marriage Act.
"I never thought I would see it in my lifetime," said Powers, former Malverne Village historian. "I was pleasantly surprised."
The ruling means the federal government must recognize gay marriages in the 12 states in the U.S. that have legalized gay marriages, including New York.
Powers and Costa were together for 18 years before getting married in 2008 in Connecticut, shortly after the state adopted a marriage equality law. But that didn't mean they were automatically treated as equal.
"If I had to go to the hospital I wouldn’t be able to designate him as immediate family - we would have to go through all kinds of health proxies," he said. "Now he’s recognized and we don’t have to go through that. He can make decisions if he needs to."
They are now entitled to federal benefits which include tax breaks, pension and social security rights, health care benefits and estate tax treatment, among other benefits.They can now also file taxes jointly with the IRS.
"As a married couple, we would have to file so many papers just to get some of the benefits were entitled to," Powers said.