US employers must now change their employee benefit plans, as the Supreme Court has turned down DOMA. Earlier, the same sex couples were denied federal benefits including immigration benefits, but now they will be treated equally and granted access to all kinds of benefits.
There are more than 225,000 Americans in same sex marriages and now all these couples are eligible for federal benefits. This change will affect the US employers and they have now started to think about the changes that they need to bring to their employee benefit plans.
Gay marriages are legal in 13 American states and according to the Supreme Court, same sex couples must be treated just like the other couples. But this applies only to the American states that have legalized gay marriages. Hence, same sex couples who get married in states that are in favor of same sex marriages alone will be granted access to federal benefits and immigration benefits.
This is now a problem for the companies that operate nationwide and that seek to administer employee benefit plans in a uniform manner. Scott Macey, President of the ERISA Industry Committee, stated that the members of her committee would not prefer inconsistent rules.
Gay couples will now be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits and they will be granted access to the Family and Medical Leave Act. There are several laws that have an impact on married couples and all such laws that deal with health care, retirement, family leave, etc., must now be changed.
According to David Codell, legal director of UCLA’s Williams Institute, same sex couples who live and work in states that are not against gay marriages, may not find it difficult to obtain benefits. But that may not be easy for the same sex couples who live in states that do not honor same sex marriages. However, US employers will have to wait until new rules are written and then change their benefit plans.