HHS Secretary Comments on Supreme Court Ruling on Defense of Marriage Act

June 27, 2013 at 9:26 am | Posted in Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Health and Human Services, Same Sex Marriage | Leave a comment
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Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave a statement on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Today’s Supreme Court decision finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is a victory for equality, which is a core belief of this administration.

It is also a victory for families, especially those children whose parents’ legal same sex marriages can now be recognized under federal law.

As a result of today’s ruling, the federal government is no longer forced to discriminate against legally married same sex couples.

The Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA reaffirms the core belief that we are all created equal and must be treated as equal.

The Department of Health and Human Services will work with the Department of Justice to review all relevant federal statutes and ensure this decision is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

Minnesota Recognizes Same Sex Marriage

May 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Posted in Medical, Same Sex Marriage, State Laws | Leave a comment
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This week Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation that recognizes same sex marriage. Minnesota now joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington as well as the District of Columbia in recognizing marriage equality. An excellent summary of the Minnesota legislation and ramifications for employee benefit plans in Minnesota can be found in the attached link to an ALERT issued by the Minnesota-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney.


Supreme Court Hears Argument Today On Challenges to Defense of Marriage Act, Constitutionality of Ban on Gay Marriages – Decision Could Impact Future Employee Benefit Issues

March 26, 2013 at 9:54 am | Posted in Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) | Leave a comment
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The United Sates Supreme Court will have oral argument today on several issues concerning the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) as well as a state’s ability to prohibit gay marriage. If the Supreme Court finds that DOMA is unconstitutional, employers and plan sponsors will need to revisit, for example, the issues of COBRA rights and imputed income. Similarly, additional issues of employee plus one or family coverage will need to be reassessed if the Court finds that a state’s ban on same gender marriage violates the equal protection clause. What follows is a summary article on possible options for the Supreme Court that appeared in March 25th Los Angeles Times.

WASHINGTON — Four years ago, many gay rights advocates shook their heads when super-lawyers Theodore B. Olson and David Boies announced they would challenge California’s ban on gay marriages in federal court and take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was too risky, the skeptics said. Voters in state after state were rejecting same-sex marriage, and no federal judge had said such bans were illegal. One liberal legal scholar called the lawsuit a “Hail Mary” pass.

But now that Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage is set for a hearing Tuesday before the Supreme Court, the lawyers and activists who started the case think they may be on the verge of a historic victory. Even the early doubters are hopeful. “We think the time is right,” said Los Angeles lawyer Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., Olson’s partner on the case. “Everything seems to be breaking in favor of marriage equality.”

Olson and Boies are urging the court to rule that gays and lesbians have an equal right to marry under the Constitution, a decision that would not only strike down the California ban but could make gay marriage legal nationwide. That is “the right result,” Boies said last week. “There is no rational or legitimate reason for the government to deny marriage to these loving couples.”

That may go too far for the court’s majority. The conventional wisdom among legal experts is that the court will stop short of declaring that gays and lesbians have a right to marry nationwide. A narrow ruling voiding Proposition 8 would bring gay marriage to California, but it would not force a change in states where strong opposition to the idea remains. Nine states and the District   of Columbia authorize same-sex marriages.

The justices have given themselves a long menu of options in the California case. That suggests that at least some of them are determined to avoid a broad decision.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. often looks for a narrow way to decide a major case. He also focuses on the procedural rules, and there is some doubt over whether the sponsors of Proposition 8 have “standing” to represent the state of California in the case. The sponsors of the gay marriage ban are private citizens, and their opponents say they do not have a personal stake in the case that would give them legal standing.

If the high court were to punt for procedural reasons in the Proposition 8 case, most lawyers say, California’s gay marriage ban would fall as a result of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that declared it unconstitutional. Others say that a procedural ruling might mean the only winners would be the two gay couples who filed the suit to overturn the ban.

In another scenario, the court might follow a procedural finding on Proposition 8 with a major decision on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the case to be heard Wednesday. This creates the possibility of a ruling that the government cannot discriminate against gays and lesbians and deny equal benefits to gay couples, but it would not mandate that all states allow gay marriage.

Some legal scholars, citing recent public opinion polls and votes in several states, said it was unlikely that the court would completely shut the door on gay marriage. Harvard Law School professor Michael J. Klarman, author of a recent book on the legal fight over same-sex unions, said the justices would not want to put their names to an opinion that would be seen over time as narrow-minded.

The menu of options facing the court could complicate the oral arguments this week and make it especially hard to forecast the outcome, which is likely to be released in June. They also may prove crucial if the justices find themselves closely split, as they were last year in the case on President Obama’s healthcare law. Then, Roberts found a narrow option for upholding the Affordable Care Act that appealed to him alone, and the four liberal justices opted to join him.

This time, the four liberal justices are likely to take their cue from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. If he is willing to strike down Proposition 8 narrowly or rule broadly in favor of same-sex marriage, they would probably join him to make a majority.

The court’s seniority system puts Kennedy in position to write the majority opinion in that event. When the justices meet in their private conference late this week, they will vote on whether to uphold or reverse the U.S. 9th Circuit Court’s decision striking down Proposition 8. Roberts speaks first, followed by Justice Antonin Scalia. Both are likely to vote to reverse the 9th Circuit’s decision.

Kennedy, 76, a California native, speaks next. If he agrees with the 9th Circuit that Proposition 8 should be struck down, he would take charge of writing the court’s opinion, assuming the four liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — agreed with him.

Kennedy is a libertarian conservative, and he has written the court’s two strongest opinions supporting gay rights. In 1996, the court faced a Colorado voter initiative that barred all civil rights protections for gays and lesbians. Kennedy spoke for the court in striking down the amendment on the grounds it treated gays as second-class citizens. Ten years ago, he wrote the court’s opinion striking down sex laws in Texas and elsewhere that targeted gays.

A few months later, judges in Massachusetts cited Kennedy’s opinion as a precedent for the first ruling giving gays and lesbians a right to marry.

Kennedy’s opinions also persuaded Olson and Boies they should take the marriage equality issue to the Supreme Court. And some of the California gay rights lawyers who were dubious four years ago acknowledge that they see it differently now.

“Things have changed remarkably,” said Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal. “We are in a very different world today.”

Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 had been “game-changing.… I am feeling very positive about where I think the court is going to end up.”

Supreme Court to Address Issue of Constitutionality of State and Federal Laws That Do Not Recognize Same Sex Marriage

December 10, 2012 at 10:50 am | Posted in Federal Laws, State Laws | Leave a comment
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The Supreme Court announced this past Friday afternoon that they will entertain two cases in their upcoming calendar that touch upon the issue of same sex marriage. The first concerns California Proposition 8 which was approved in 2008 is a state-wide voter approved referendum that amended the sate constitution to expressly prevent same sex  couples from marrying. A federal district court in San Francisco and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have found that Proposition 8 illegally discriminates between same sex couples and opposite sex couples.

The second issue concerns the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) which precludes same sex couples from obtaining certain federal rights and benefits. Two federal appeal courts, including the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals which embraces Massachusetts, have found that DOMA unlawfully discriminates against same sex couples. A classic example of DOMA’s application is the issue of an employer calculating additional or “imputed income” for federal tax purposes for an employee if the employer extends health insurance to employees and their same sex couples.

A briefing schedule has yet to be announced but it is anticipated that oral argument will likely be in the early summer of 2013.

IRS Issues FAQ Guidance Concerning Same-Sex Couples Taxpayer Obligations and Allowances

October 30, 2012 at 11:50 am | Posted in Federal Taxes, IRS | Leave a comment
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Last week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance concerning a variety of frequently asked income tax and deductions questions that they have addressed concerning same-sex couples.

 A copy of the guidance can be found here:


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