Same-Sex Marriage Cases Could Impact Employment Laws

The latest ruling in a series of same-sex marriage cases was issued this week from the New-York based Second Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The act, DOMA, prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. It’s the second federal appeals court to find it unconstitutional. Other courts have found state prohibitions on same-sex marriage unconstitutional as well. Many experts are predicting the issue will land before the Supreme Court during the current term, which runs from October through June.

The rulings, which are already impacting federal employees’ benefits, could have a similar impact on private-sector employee benefits if the Supreme Court invalidates laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Some employers have started getting ready by extending benefits to same-sex partners, but others are adopting a wait-and-see approach given the uncertainty before a definitive ruling.

In any event, employers should expect to revisit this issue sometime soon.

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