On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional stating that it had no legitimate purpose. The Court found that DOMA’s avowed purpose and practical effect was to impose a disadvantage, a separate status and a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the authority of the States. The Court found that, “DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married according to state law but unmarried for the purposes of federal law therefore diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations that the State has found proper to acknowledge and protect.”
DOMA applied to over 1,000 federal laws, statues and essentially the entire realm of federal regulations which all defined “marriage” and “spouse” as excluding same-sex partners. Under DOMA, plan sponsors that had employees in states that recognized same-sex marriages were still required to treat employees with same-sex spouses as:
- Single, for the purposes of federal tax withholding, payroll taxes and workplace benefits that turn on marital status; and
- Married for all other purposes under state law. Simply stated, plan sponsors affected were forced to operate two administrative regimes federal and in order to comply with DOMA.
The SCOTUS ruling eliminates and forbids a federal statute defining what is and is not a recognized marriage according to federal law and places the duty to establish the meaning of marriage within the power of the individual states.
Read more: DOMA