Persons who are legally married have long enjoyed a wide range of benefits in the United States, including:
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That ruling, however, applied only to the availability of federal benefits, and specifically held that federal benefits are available only in those states that have legalized same-sex marriage. To date, 17 states grant licenses for same-sex marriages and another eight are waiting the decision of state supreme courts.
A common law marriage is one that is recognized under state law without the requirement of a ceremony or a license. Currently, there are 12 states that recognize common law marriage. While the requirements for common law marriage differ from state to state, some of the common denominators include cohabitating for a specific period of time or holding yourself out as married.
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