All Same-Sex Spouses Have Employee Benefit Rights: Labor Dept.

By Adam Ramirez on September 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Legally married gay couples are entitled to participate in employee benefit plans, even if the state they live in does not recognize gay marriage.

Same-sex spouses can now participate in private retirement and healthcare plans overseen by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Department of Labor said in a landmark memo (full-text document attached below).

The terms “spouse” and “marriage” under employee-benefit rules now apply to gay married couples. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in United States v. Windsor, which extended federal benefits to those in same-sex marriages.

In effect, a gay couple that is legally married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage will be considered married regardless of where they live.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called the ruling a “historic step forward” and said the department would work to implement it in a way providing “maximum protection” for American workers.

All Same-Sex Spouses Have Employee Benefit Rights: Labor Dept. Memo

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