Breaking News

Marriage benefits start for same-sex spouses

The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management on Friday issued orders to federal agencies to move rapidly to extend benefits available to married federal workers and retirees to those who have legally married their gay or lesbian partners — the first effort to carry out the Supreme Court decision Wednesday striking down a benefit ban in the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In a memo sent by OPM Acting Director Elaine Kaplan, agencies were told to allow some health insurance coverage immediately to the spouses and children of married gay and lesbian employees, and to set the stage for more to gain that coverage within sixty days.  The memo also covered other forms of insurance and retirement benefits — previously barred under DOMA’s Section 3, now no longer in effect.

This action only dealt with benefits for gay and lesbian federal workers and their families, but government agencies that carry out some 1,100 federal laws and scores of official regulations dealing with marital benefits and opportunities also are expected to begin taking steps to implement the Court’s ruling in the case of United States v. Windsor.   Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that the order covering federal employees was “only the beginning” and that other agencies will start moving “as swiftly and smoothly as possible” to end the benefit ban in their areas of operation.

The OPM guidance issued Friday was noteworthy in that it drew no distinction between legally married gay and lesbian employees living in states that permit them to marry, or in states that still forbid such unions.  The memo appeared to indicate that the benefits would be keyed only to the status of legal marriage of the employee, wherever it was performed and regardless of where they now live.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Marriage benefits start for same-sex spouses, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 28, 2013, 6:04 PM),