Massachusetts employers tired of double recordkeeping under state and federal law for same-sex married employees can breathe a sigh of relief. The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The Court’s decision means that married same-sex couples will now be eligible for the full range of federal benefits and rights, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), social security, COBRA and the ability to file joint federal tax returns and receive a marital deduction.
Prior to this decision, some AIM members had been making up the financial cost of the loss of the marital deduction. This decision allows those employers to revisit the practice.
The 5 to 4 majority stated that the power to regulate marriage belongs to the states, not the federal government. Since the Massachusetts same-sex marriage law has been in effect for almost 10 years, employers are familiar with the requirement of covering same-sex employees and their families. The federal clarification will help Massachusetts employers be able to implement uniformly their policies and legal requirements.
The Court decision did not state an effective date, but it will likely be immediate in a state like Massachusetts with an existing same-sex marriage law. That said, some of the federal agencies impacted by this decision may take some time to get up to speed for compliance.