Same-Sex Marriages and Employee Benefits
The U.S. Department of Labor announced new guidance interpreting the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thereby recognizing under federal law same sex marriage in states in which it is legal. In a technical release, the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration provides guidance to plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, participants, and beneficiaries on the decision’s impact on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974.
The release states that, in general, the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in Title I of ERISA and in related department regulations should be read to include same-sex couples legally married in any state or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes such marriages, regardless of where they currently live. On June 26, 2013, the United States v. Windsor decision struck down the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married, same-sex couples.
“I have directed the department’s agency heads to ensure that they are implementing the decision in a way that provides maximum protection for workers and their families,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The department plans to issue additional guidance in the coming months as we continue to consult with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to implement the decision.”
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