At the federal level, D.C. gay couples will continue to be subject to taxation of domestic-partner benefits and will be excluded from Social Security survivorship benefits, unlimited gifting between partners and unlimited marital deduction for estates.
And spouses of gay federal government employees in the District, such as Ms. Bruno, will continue to be exempt from health care benefits because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The difference also means that filing D.C. taxes and filing federal taxes will make financial planning more complex for gay couples. To qualify for tax benefits, D.C. Code currently requires married couples to file the same as they do on the federal level. Legislation before the D.C. Council seeks to give married same-sex couples the option of filing jointly or separately as if the federal government recognized the right to marry.
And the fact that the District is recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states does not mean all gay couples should marry and file their taxes jointly, Mr. Kapp said.
“They have to sit down and take a look at their tax situation and determine if it benefits them to marry and file jointly at the state level,” he said.
The intersection between the federal and state level also affects elements of family law. For instance, because gay couples will not be treated as married under federal law, alimony is not tax-deductible.
One of the biggest changes that comes with the law is the ability for the District to dissolve same-sex marriages, according to Sue Silber, a Takoma Park-based family-law lawyer who works with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families. Gay couples that have married elsewhere and have resided in the District for more than six months will no longer need to travel outside the District to get a divorce, she said.
The law will do little to affect child-custody rights, which are dependent on the relationship with the child, not the couple’s relationship, Ms. Silber said.
Mr. Krehely and his spouse, who have lived in the District for the duration of their marriage, debated moving to Massachusetts but are happy they stayed here.
“Being recognized as married in the District makes it much more likely that we will stay here,” said Mr. Krehely, who noted that he and his spouse are considering starting a family. “You want to be somewhere that really does recognize your whole family and the relationships you have.”