A number of recent legal changes will have a notable impact on employee benefits law both now and in the future. Some of the most significant of those changes are the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and the expansion of Title VII’s discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) individuals by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and some federal courts.
Same-Sex Marriage: Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges
In the 2013 Windsor decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of federal law. After Windsor, the federal government issued guidance that it would look to the law of the state where the same-sex couple was married (state of celebration), rather than to the state law where the couple lived (state of residence), in most instances under federal law to determine if the same-sex couple was validly married. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, and mandated that states both permit same-sex couples to marry and recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in other states. As a result of Obergefell, the “state of celebration” test for determining whether to recognize a same-sex couple’s marriage is no longer relevant under federal law.
Continue Reading Developments in Employee Benefits Law: Same-Sex Marriage and Title VII’s Protection for LGBT Employees