Although the marriage contract is governed by state law, the federal government uses marital status as the qualification for more than 1,049 federally regulated rights and responsibilities.
The so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” changes the role of the federal government to also define legal marriage, a state right under the U.S. Constitution, and block same-sex couples from full citizenship, should any state decide to offer legal marriage.
The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) was asked by congressional members to compile a list of U.S. federal laws which are affected by marital status. The results of their first study was completed on January 31, 1997.
The GAO subsequently did a second search for the federal laws that are triggered by legal marriage. In December 31, 2003, it identified a total of 1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.
List of Federal Marriage Laws - 2003
List of Federal Marriage Laws - 1997
Partners Task Force also compiled a list in 2003 of federal regulations by searching various government databases:
Partners List of
U.S. Federal Regulations Triggered by Legal Marriage - 2003