It’s a historic day today in the US. Exactly 10 years after its Lawrence vs. Texas decision that essentially legalized being gay here, the US Supreme Court issued significant rulings on the two same-gender marriage cases before it:
1 – The US Supreme court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), finding Section 3, the ban on federal benefits for married same-gender couples, unconstitutional.
2 – The US Supreme Court dismissed an appeal to the decision rendering Proposition 8 unconstitutional based on lack of standing. Prop 8 prohibited same-gender couples from marrying in California, and it has been involved in legal challenges ever since it passed in 2008. The stay in the order rendering it unconstitutional should be lifted soon.
What do these rulings mean for business, for you as a same-gender employee or for your same-gender colleagues? With the caveat that I’m not a lawyer, below is my interpretation:
What does this mean?
You or your colleagues in same-gender partnerships in California who wish to get married will be able to be married.
Only a procedural issue remains for the 9th Circuit court to dismiss the appeal after the US Supreme Court sends them formal notice of today’s decision. After that, you can go to the county clerk to ask for a marriage license. There are some questions as to whether all jurisdictions in California are required to issue marriage licenses, or whether some can refuse to and bring their own cases through the courts. However, the state has indicated that counties that refuse to abide will face legal action from the state.
This has immediate ramifications for many colleagues I know who have been waiting to marry their loved ones. We’ll hear lots of wedding bells and wedding planning should become a discussion at many workplaces.
Your same-gender marriage is now federally recognized if you married in one of the 13 states + DC that allow it:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
- District of Columbia
- And now, once again, California
Legally married same-gender couples may now receive federal benefits.
See an overview of over 1,000 federal benefits previously denied to same-gender couples: http://www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_research/GAO_benefits.
Legally married same-gender couples will now file federal taxes as “married.”
As one of the authors on the Supreme Court blog at http://www.scotusblog.com/ said: “Perhaps for the first time ever, many people will be eager to file their taxes next April 15.” Depending on your tax situation, you may need to take a look at adjusting your withholdings.
The health insurance benefits that spouses of same-gender employees receive should no longer be considered taxable income, as it had been until today. A growing number of businesses opted to fix this inequity themselves by “grossing up” wages to make up for lost income due to that taxation. In my understanding, these should no longer be necessary if this taxation is ceased.
If you are married, you *should* be able to sponsor your same-gender foreign national for a green card here in the US.
See for discussion: http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/26/19153847-doma-decision-a-win-for-lgbt-immigration-rights-advocates
This has huge ramifications for colleagues I know personally who have to live apart from their partners. Will it also affect your company’s H1 visa process?
What does this NOT mean?
You can’t get married if you live in a state that does not allow same-gender marriage.
There are only 13 states plus DC that now allow this right. Today’s decisions do nothing to require more from other states. HOWEVER, as a colleague points out:
LGBT people who live in states that don’t allow same-gender marriage, like Pennsylvania (the head of SAP America), can get married by going to other states that do – for example, Delaware and New York are just a short drive away. You can get married in one of those states, receive full federal recognition, and continue to live in Pennsylvania. Another option is to have a ceremony in Pennsylvania, and before or after have a civil ceremony in one of those other states.
The situation could be legally complicated for businesses and should certainly keep evolving.
This has nothing to do with ENDA – the Employment Non-discrimination Act.
In 29 of 50 U.S. states, it is still legal to terminate an employee for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Pennsylvania, where the headquarters of SAP America are located, is one of those states. In addition, in 38 of 50 U.S. states, it is legal to terminate an employee for being transgendered.
To be clear, it is against SAP policy to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
It’s not clear whether all the federal benefits of marriage will now be enjoyed by married same-gender couples – even some of those I’ve mentioned in the section above – which may be subject to further litigation.
- Legally murky areas of federal benefits still need to be addressed.
- Legally confusing situations between states that do allow marriage and those that either don’t or downright prevent recognition of same-gender marriages in their own or other states will continue.
- The conversation will continue.
- My colleagues and I will celebrate today. Feel a bit more secure in our families. And continue to work hard tomorrow.
Feel free to let me know in the comments if I’ve misrepresented anything. And thank you for being here!
Here’s Wikipedia for the background on today’s cases:
NOTE: I had to go through and change terminology throughout to “same-gender” even though that’s not the preferred term — to avoid spamtrapping…
San Francisco’s Castro district after the decision this morning. Expect a huge celebration tonight.
San Francisco city hall today