Thursday, September 19, 2013
Department of Labor Releases Guidance on ERISA
On September 18, 2013, the Department of Labor gave post-DOMA guidance to "employee benefit plans, plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, and plan participants and beneficiaries", via Technical Release 2013-2014.
According to the release:
"The term "spouse" will be read to refer to any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law, including individuals married to a person of the same sex who were legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, but who are domiciled in a state that does not recognize such marriages. Similarly, the term "marriage" will be read to include a same-sex marriage that is legally recognized as a marriage under any state law. This is the most natural reading of those terms; it is consistent with Windsor, in which the plaintiff was seeking tax benefits under a statute that used the term "spouse"; and a narrower interpretation would not further the purposes of the relevant statutes and regulations. A rule that recognizes marriages that are valid in the state in which they were celebrated, regardless of the married couple's state of domicile, provides a uniform rule of recognition that can be applied with certainty by stakeholders, including employers, plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries."
This is good news for same sex couples, as the Department of Labor will recognize a same-sex couple's marriage, based on the place they were married ("place of celebration"), regardless of whether where they currently live recognizes same-sex marriage.
This means same-sex spouses will have equal treatment for employee benefit plans governed by ERISA.
You can read the full technical release HERE.