I. New Laws and Regulations -
A. Federal -
Following U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Federal Agencies Extend Definition of “Spouse” to Persons in Same-Sex Marriages. In United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court held unconstitutional a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that for purposes of all federal laws defined “marriage” to include only marriages between a man and a woman. In striking down the law, the Court recognized the right of each state to define marriage and the long-standing deference under federal law given to such state recognition. As a result of Windsor, it became clear that in those jurisdictions where same-sex marriages are recognized (including, among others, California, New York, and the District of Columbia), all federal rights, benefits, and privileges granted to spouses are extended to employees in same-sex marriages. Thereafter, the U.S. Department of Labor (Technical Release 2013-04), the Internal Revenue Service (Revenue Ruling 2013-17), and the Department of Homeland Security (www.uscis.gov/family/same-sex-marriages) announced that, for purposes of interpreting federal employee benefit, tax, and immigration laws, same-sex couples who are lawfully married in any state (the so-called “place of celebration”) shall be treated as married, regardless of their place of residence. Thus, even if a same-sex married couple resides in a state where they may not legally marry, they will be recognized as married under these federal laws. This impacts a number of important employment rights that are now extended to same-sex spouses, including:
• Enrollment in Health Plans – Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, marriage is a “qualifying event” that allows an employee to enroll a new spouse immediately in a company sponsored health insurance plan.
• Tax Treatment of Spousal Health Insurance and Expenses – The Internal Revenue Service must now extend tax-free treatment to company-paid premiums for health insurance for an employee’s same sex spouse and pre-tax status to an employee’s payments for spousal health costs via vehicles such as flexible spending accounts....
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