This morning the U. S. Supreme Court ducked the question of whether same-sex couples have a right to civil marriage under the U. S. Constitution. However, it did so in a way that will uphold a decision by a California District Court that the ban on same-sex marriage under Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

So… can gays and lesbians now marry in California?

Not yet, but soon.

First of all, a lower court is required to wait 25 days before implementing a Supreme Court ruling. That would take us until around July 20th, 2013, before the lower court could dismiss the appeal of its original ruling.

However, as California Attorney General Kamala Harris has noted, the ruling had been stayed by the lower court originally, and that stay could be lifted by the lower court earlier than the 25 days, at its discretion.  At the earliest, I would look for a ruling out of the lower federal court within a week.  At the latest, we’ll have fabulous weddings within a month.

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How will this change my estate planning?

Until this ruling, California had three classes of same-sex couples: non-related couples; registered domestic partnerships; and same-sex marriages performed in the six-month window after the California Supreme Court ruled that bans were unconstitutional under the California constitution and the passing of Proposition 8.

Now, we can expect the ranks of same-sex marriages to increase dramatically. Combined with the ruling on DOMA, we have the brand-new ability of same-sex couples to save thousands to millions on estate taxes. Run, don’t walk, to your estate planning attorney!

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