Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, changing the landscape in the world of employee benefits. The court’s 5-4 ruling determined that states must issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples and also recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. For some employer benefit plans, this may mean simplification; for others, it may require a review of current policy and case law to decide how to proceed. While the law does not require employers to cover same-sex spouses, employers who choose to exclude them may face legal challenges of sex discrimination.
On the other hand, employers may want to consider dropping coverage of domestic partnerships, now that coverage under the “legal marriage” definition is available to same-sex couples. With no legal barriers to same-sex marriage, the administrative burden of domestic partner benefits may be seen as unnecessary. Further, employers who allow same-sex domestic partner coverage, but not opposite-sex domestic partner coverage may now face sex discrimination issues, just as those employers choosing not to cover same-sex spouses.
If you’d like to know where your benefit plans stand with regard to same-sex eligibility, including domestic partnerships, contact your Cowan Account Manager. We are here to help!