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Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- The federal government will now recognize same-sex marriages in the 13 states where it is legal, which means legally married sex-same couples can now file joint federal tax returns no matter what state they live in.

Thursday, the IRS ruled it will not reject joint federal tax returns filed by legally married same-sex couples, even if they live in a state that does not recognize their union.

'No question about it, it is a big win because this means that when you go to New York to get married, you are not just doing it as a gesture,' said John Hill, the board member for the Forum for Equality. 'There is going to be concrete benefit to it now.'

For same-sex couples this means health insurance polices will now be tax free and, like other legally married couples, they will now be exempt from paying inheritance taxes.

'Since they decide that it doesn't matter where you live anymore, you are going to have a lot of people going to get married so they can have that,' said Hill.

The benefits do not stop there. Attorney Christopher Otten, who is the vice-chair for the Forum for Equality, says couples will also be able amend their tax returns going back three years.

'That is a huge benefit because they can not only amend their tax returns for their income tax, but if they have paid health insurance in the past, they'll also be able to amend and get a credit for this as well,' says Otten.

What the ruling does not address is state law, particularly in states like Louisiana that do not recognize gay marriages.

'As state law stands right now, it follows federal tax law, so it will be interesting to see in the months to come,' says Otten.

If the state does not reject the joint return, Otten says it could end up being very costly and time consuming for same-sex couples.

'The state may require that they file their federal joint return, prepare to separate federal returns that they don't file and use those to get the numbers for the state return,' Otten said.

Yet if Louisiana rejects same-sex couple's joint returns, it could open the state up to several lawsuits.

'I think they could make the argument that they are not being treated equally under the law,' said Otten. 'So that is going to be a problem for the state to be able to justify.'

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also said Thursday that Medicare will no longer make married same-sex couples choose between getting coverage and being able to stay in the same nursing home as their spouse.

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