DOMA Decisions Raise Questions About Employer Health Benefits

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 24, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has done poorly in recent court decisions which has led some to consider the impact its invalidation could have on employment issues, including health benefits.

DOMA's invalidation would affect federal laws regarding private employment as well as benefits for federal employees. If it's overturned by the Supreme Court that could require employers to offer the same health benefits to both gay and straight employees.

Even if the law isn't overturned, public opinion seems to be moving in favor of gay rights, reports ABA Journal. That may mean it's time for your client's policies to change.

National polls are showing a shift in attitudes toward marriage equality and same-sex relationships. That means even if courts don't anything, rules and regulations about same-sex marriage may change naturally over time.

When that happens, companies that aren't providing equal benefits may have to scramble to catch up. To avoid that, many offices are already providing benefits for same-sex couples.

So far that move isn't mandatory, but it may be too beneficial to pass up depending on where your company is located and its public image.

Of course, businesses like Chick-Fil-A which have publicly come out as anti-same sex marriage may not benefit from a more inclusive benefits policy. But if your client takes pride in their diversity it may be appropriate to broach the idea of a more inclusive health policy.

For large companies, providing health benefits to same-sex spouses and domestic partners is a way to tell the gay and lesbian community that your company is a welcoming place to work.

It also shows your commitment to attracting those kinds of employees.

While complying with the law is important, so is keeping up with public opinion so your client doesn't fall behind. That may mean making the shift to expanded health benefits before you're forced to do it.

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