The U.S. Department of Labor announced new guidance Wednesday interpreting the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor with regard to same-sex marriages and employee benefit plans.
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 the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
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, 2013, the Windsor decision struck down the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married, same-sex couples.
“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,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
“The department 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.”
“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,” said Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi.
EBSA protects the retirement, health and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers, retirees and their families. The agency oversees approximately 701,000 private sector retirement plans, 2.3 million health plans and other plans that provide benefits to more than 141 million Americans. Collectively, these plans hold more than $7.3 trillion in assets. Additional information can be found online.
The full text of the technical release is available.