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Supreme Court Grants Petitions on Same-Sex Marriage

Friday December 7th 2012

On Friday, December 7, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition challenging the federal definition of marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), opening the door to a possible acceptance of same-sex marriage.

The high court granted the petition in the case of Windsor vs. United States. Oral arguments are likely to occur sometime in March 2013 with a decision expected in June 2013. A total of eight petitions were pending before the court on the DOMA issue.

image-2Specifically, the Supreme Court will examine Section 3 of DOMA, which states that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” If DOMA becomes invalid, the effects would be sweeping for HR, benefits and insurance professionals, changing rules for laws like COBRA/USERRA, ERISA, payroll, cafeteria plans and flexible benefits, FMLA and federal programs like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, as well as income tax filings.

In the November elections, Maine, Maryland and Washington voted to legalize same-sex marriage, bringing the total to nine states (CT, IA, MA, NH, NY, VT are the others) and the District of Columbia that have approved same-sex marriage. Some 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage.

California is in a category by itself. It recognizes same-sex marriages performed between June 16, 2008, and November 4, 2008, when same-sex marriage was legal. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion invalidated Proposition 8, which declared that marriage was only between a man and a woman. That case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is also pending before the Supreme Court, as are two other state law cases for Arizona and Nevada. The Supreme Court accepted the petition for the California case.

What is your reaction? Do you think DOMA will be upheld or struck down? Please comment below.

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