The U.S. Supreme Court, in Overturning Section 3 of DOMA, Creates Issues for Benefit Plans

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The U.S. Supreme Court, in Overturning Section 3 of DOMA, Creates Issues for Benefit Plans

by Gary S. Young on July 23, 2013

Historically, the definition and regulation of the marriage relationship was deemed to be the exclusive domain of the states. With passage of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (“DOMA”), Congress changed this assumption in two important respects:

• DOMA Section 2 permitted states to refuse to recognize same-gender marriages performed under the laws of other states; and

• DOMA Section 3 barred same-gender married couples from being recognized as “spouses” for all purposes of Federal law.

In United States v. Windsor (Case No. 12–30, decided June 26, 2013), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DOMA’s definition of “spouse” (DOMA Section 3) is unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

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