DOMA's Death Raises Questions for HR Executives

Chelsea Rice, July 1, 2013

The Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act was clear, but in its wake are questions about precisely how employer-sponsored benefits will be affected.

While buildings lit up with rainbows and same-sex couples tied the knot, employers observed last week's Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act by reviewing their employee benefit packages and awaiting more detailed instruction from various federal agencies.

 While expanding rights to 114,100 legally married same-sex couples in 12 states, including the District of Columbia, the undoing of DOMA, also affects more than 1,000 federal laws.  

Employers in states where same-sex marriages are legal are now required to expand employer-sponsored health plans, retirement benefits, pensions, health savings and flexible spending accounts, COBRA coverage, HIPAA enrollment rights, and FMLA leave rights to same-sex marriages. Everything from services, employee discounts, and retirement planning services are expanded to same-sex spouses.  

But there are still a lot of questions around how the Supreme Court ruling will affect the particulars of employer-sponsored benefits in different states, and there's a variety of complexity to how benefits departments will implement the rulings for employees.  

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