DOL Provides ERISA Guidance for Same-Sex Couples

‘Spouse’ and ‘marriage’ in Title I of ERISA and should be read to include same-sex couples legally married

(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

The Department of Labor on Thursday announced new guidance interpreting the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, and its impact on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

In a technical release, the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration provides guidance to plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, participants and beneficiaries on the decision’s impact on ERISA.

The release states that, in general, the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in Title I of ERISA and in related department regulations should be read to include same-sex couples legally married in any state or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes such marriages, regardless of where they currently live.

On June 26, the Windsor decision struck down the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married, same-sex couples.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement that “This decision represents a historic step toward equality for all American families, and I have directed the department’s agency heads to ensure that they are implementing the decision in a way that provides maximum protection for workers and their families.”

DOL, he said, “plans to issue additional guidance in the coming months as we continue to consult with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to implement the decision.”

Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary for EBSA, said in the same statement that “by providing greater clarity on how the Supreme Court’s decision affects one of the laws we enforce, we are contributing to greater equality and greater protection for America’s working families.”

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Check out Tax Milestone Nears for Same-Sex Couples on ThinkAdvisor.

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