The United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines "marriage" as a union exclusively between one man and one woman is invalid. Yet, another portion of DOMA continues to allow a state to not recognize same-sex marriages performed under laws of other states. Because employee benefit plans are impacted by federal law, the court's decision will have a major impact on the administration of employee benefit plans.

For same-sex couples who marry in and work in states that recognize same-sex marriages, the new law change is easier to follow. Simply, employee benefit plans that provide any type of spousal coverage must extend the coverage to a same-sex spouse. This means health care coverage, retirement and death benefits and FMLA.

However, for same-sex couples who marry in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage and yet work for a company in another state that does not recognize the marriage, the answers are not clear at all. What state laws would the employer need to apply?

The federal government and agencies, including the IRS, are expected to provide guidance on many of these issues. Until then, you can get more information from this previously posted Bricker bulletin. Employers should also stay tuned to make sure their employee benefit plans documents follow the law.