U.S. Supreme Court Legalizes Same-sex Marriage Nationwide

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision on same-sex marriage. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.

This case, Obergefell v. Hodges, involved challenges to same-sex marriage bans from four states—Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky. Even though the Supreme Court’s decision involves these four states, the ruling affects same-sex marriage laws in every state.

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that same-sex couples have the right to be married in their own states and to have their marriages recognized as valid in every other state.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is effective immediately, which means all states must start (or continue) issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the same terms as opposite-sex couples.

Impact of Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court’s decision impacts the legality of same-sex marriages throughout the country.

By ruling that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in any state, and will be entitled to the all the rights, benefits and obligations given to opposite-sex spouses under both federal and state law.

Also, due to the Supreme Court’s ruling,employers will generally be required to treat employees in same-sex marriages the same as employees in opposite-sex marriages for many federal and state law purposes.

Many federal laws have already been interpreted to include both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages due to the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA. The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling will expand these legal rights and protections to additional couples.

Also, many state law leave rights for legally married spouses should extend to employees with same-sex spouses. Same-sex married couples should also be subject to the same state tax rules as opposite-sex married couples.  State insurance laws may require employers with insured health plans to offer equal health plan coverage to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court did not consider whether federal nondiscrimination laws should be expanded to protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, a number of states have laws that prohibit such workplace discrimination. Employers should keep any applicable laws in mind when providing any rights or benefits to employees.

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The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information above contains only a summary of the applicable legal provisions and does not purport to cover every aspect of any particular law, regulation or requirement. Depending on the specific facts of any situation, there may be additional or different requirements. This is to be used only as a guide and not as a definitive description of your compliance obligations.