Supreme Court Ruling on Defense of Marriage Act Changes Employee Benefits Administration

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional.

The case that prompted the ruling, United States v. Windsor, questioned whether legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal tax benefits as opposite sex couples. The case opened the door for lawfully married same-sex couples to take advantage of more than 1,100 federal benefits already afforded to heterosexual married couples.

For many employers, the ruling created uncertainty with respect to employee benefit administration. Section 2 of DOMA, which allows a state to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states, was not addressed by the Supreme Court and still stands as law. Accordingly, employers in states like Pennsylvania, which does not recognize same sex marriages, were left wondering how to administer benefits to employees in a same sex marriage lawfully formed in another state.

For more information, please contact Jason Mettley at [email protected].
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