Same-Sex Marriage Decision and Employer Implications

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the United States Constitution requires states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.

The Court’s opinion invalidates certain state laws to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples. Additionally, the opinion holds there is no lawful basis for a state to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another state, on the ground of its same-sex character.

It is anticipated that federal, state, and local agencies will issue guidance on how to proceed.

The Supreme Court decision on Friday finally gave closure to the decades-long debate about whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in the United States when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled gay and lesbian couples can get married anywhere in the country.

IS THIS THE FINAL WORD ON THE ISSUE?

Yes, for all intents and purposes. The states that oppose gay marriage could ask the justices to reconsider, but that’s unlikely. That means June 26, 2015, will be marked in future history books as the moment gay marriage was declared legal across the United States.

WHAT IS THE IMPLICATIONS FOR EMPLOYERS?

In states where same-sex marriage is currently legal, this ruling will have no effect.

One Area that may be impacted is the granting of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees who enter into a same-sex marriage may be entitled to FMLA.

Also, employers in states that have not allowed same-sex marriage, such as Michigan, should examine their medical insurance and retirement plans. Same-sex spouses may qualify as beneficiaries under these plans now, where previously they might have been legally excluded from participating.

The bottom line is that all employer policies related to spouses should apply to same-sex marriages. Employers should require the same level and type of proof of same-sex marriage as they would any other marriage.

Employers are encouraged to seek advice from Human Resources or legal to proceed.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE 14 STATES THAT STILL BAN GAY MARRIAGE?

The Southern and Midwestern states must lift their bans and allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The 14 states that had banned gay marriage are Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, most of Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.

DOES ANYTHING CHANGE IN THE 36 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA THAT ALREADY ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE?

No. The ruling ensures that the wave of lower-court decisions that legalized gay marriage across most of the West and East in the last 1½ years stand. The Supreme Court ruling prevents state officials and county clerks from being forced to determine how to deal with thousands of marriages already issued.

DOES THIS MEAN CHURCHES MUST CONDUCT GAY MARRIAGES?

No. Religious organizations are exempt from this ruling.

WILL GAY AND LESBIAN COUPLES GET THE SAME BENEFITS THAT OPPOSITE-SEX MARRIED COUPLES RECEIVE?

They should, but there may be hiccups as states come to grips with this new reality.

WERE THE JUSTICES UNANIMOUS IN THEIR DECISION?

No. The ruling narrowly passed 5-4.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *