March 7, 2013
Authored by: Lisa Van Fleet
With over 1,100 federal statutory provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining access to statutory benefits, rights, or privileges, the outcome of the challenge to the constitutionality of laws adversely impacting same-sex marriages could have a significant effect on employee benefits.
Under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), for purposes of federal law, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between a man and a woman, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. This means that under current law, Federal benefits available to opposite-sex spouses are not available to same-sex spouses even when they are legally married under state law.
Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on two cases that could change this result. Windsor v. United States is a constitutional challenge to Section 3 of