On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued its decision on national legality of same sex marriage. The ruling of 5-4 means that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same sex couples the right to marry- effective immediately.
Before this ruling, the majority of states had laws that prohibited same-sex marriage or refused to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally entered into within other jurisdictions. All states must now (or continue to) issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the same terms as opposite-sex couples.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages by solely defining “marriage” as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. The Supreme Court ruled that this key definition of “marriage” violated the U.S. Constitution.
How the ruling for same-sex marriage may affect your business:
- Legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits and protections under federal law as opposite-sex married couples.
- Employers that have locations in multiple states, the research and writing of company policies regarding benefits and obligations should be simplified.
- State laws regarding leave will also be mutually applicable.
- This decision does not consider whether federal nondiscrimination laws should be expanded to protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, a number of individual states have laws that prohibit such discrimination in place.
- Employers will need to confirm that wage withholdings are accurate to correlate with the employee’s marriage status. Same-sex married employees that have had to file as single for payroll withholding may need to complete a new W-4 to reflect their status as a married persons.
Employers should keep any applicable laws in mind when providing any rights, perks, or benefits to employees. (ie: company-provided vacation time, insurance policies, and leave)
If you have any questions or concerns about changes to company procedures, manuals, or insurance coverage- be sure to contact your insurance agent for advice and guidance.