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DOMA's Death Raises Questions for HR Executives

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, July 1, 2013

Of the 114,000 same-sex couples who are legally married, 38,000 live in states where their marriages aren't recognized, according to The Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law on sexual orientation, gender identity law and public policy. Health plan providers, employers, and LGBT employees alike are awaiting further clarity from the IRS and the Treasury Department, as well as from other federal regulatory bodies. 

President Obama, traveling internationally last week, urged federal regulators to act swiftly, and said, "The federal government should broadly interpret its laws to guarantee benefits to the maximum number of same-sex married couples."

Gary Jurney CLU, ChFC, president of Kainos Partners, a benefits and HR consulting agency in Houston, said in an interview last week that he doesn't anticipate much changing for employers in states that don't recognize same-sex marriages, but it's not totally clear whether employers may keep language specifically saying they don't recognize same sex marriages in their plans.

In the national media, lawyers and benefits consultants are advising all employers to reexamine the language of their policies . Employers with facilities across different states will have to look especially closely at their policies, and possibly create separate documentation across different states to reflect the laws of those jurisdictions.  

California is an outlier. Most employers there already offer benefits to the state's 200,000 same-sex couples, according to The Williams Institute. The think tank estimates that in three years, 37,000 same-sex couples in California will marry.

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