The U.S. Supreme Court Rules Defense Of Marriage Act Unconstitutional: Significant Implications For Employee Benefit Plans

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On June 26, 2013, in U.S. v. Windsor, the US Supreme Court held the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) unconstitutional as a violation of the right to liberty found in the due process clause of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

DOMA was enacted by Congress in 1996. Section 3 of DOMA provides that for purposes of any federal law “marriage” means a legal union between one man and one woman, and “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite-sex who is a husband or wife. In essence, DOMA prohibited federal law from recognizing same sex marriages, even if permissible under state law. Currently 13 states (including California as a result of another Supreme Court ruling on the same day as Windsor) and the District of Columbia license same-sex marriages.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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