Marriage equality ruling gives new access to financial marital benefits

People celebrate on the Capitol Square in Madison, Wis., Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay marriage has been legal in Wisconsin for months, but supporters still trumpeted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide with relief and joy, saying it cements same-sex unions in the state. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Steve Apps)
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Friday's Supreme Court decision to legal same sex marriages nationwide has many implications for people all over South Dakota.

For same sex couples in the state, it is a time to celebrate their right to marry and their new found equality in the eyes of the law. For businesses in South Dakota, Friday's ruling means preparing for some changes in their HR department.

"We're going to be meeting very early next week to go through and review all of our policy positions and take a look at where we need to make modifications in order to comply with the ruling," City of Sioux Falls Human Resource Director Bill O'Toole said.

The City of Sioux Falls--like many other area employers--is preparing to add new dependents to their employees benefit plans.

"Obviously some significant implications under health plans for insurance purposes, pension benefits, life insurance, leave--all those kinds of things," O'Toole said.

"I think people are going to get right on that and start getting signed up for insurance and other benefits, taxes were also huge," Pipestone, MN resident Christy Johnson said.

Christy Johnson and her wife Kerry were the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in Minnesota two years ago; they say the financial benefits were huge for their family.

"They included my children because they are also her dependents, prior to that I was in school and I had no insurance, so for me to be put on her insurance was a huge thing," Johnson said.

Even though their marriage is already recognized in Minnesota, Friday's ruling opens up another big door.

"For us it's actually huge because we've been talking about moving to Nashville where I used to live, but prior to Friday, it was going to be a difficult choice to move because they don't recognize our marriage there, or they didn't," Johnson said.

Now employers across America will be required to provide the same marital benefits to same sex couples.

"The decision itself provides good clarity in terms of the definition of a spouse and now that is covered just like anything else," O'Toole said.

"There's no limitations at all, we don't have to sit and worry about can we buy a house, what are we gong to do tax wise? It's been a huge weight lifted off our shoulders, so it's a great day," Johnson said.

Johnson says same sex couples in the state will likely have a 30-day deadline to start applying for benefits with their spouse's employers. Businesses like the City of Sioux Falls say they've been preparing for these changes for a while and will be ready when couples come to seek those benefits next week.