On 6/26/2016, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that statewide prohibitions on same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, all states must now allow same-sex couples to marry, as well as recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
As a result of this decision, any employer-sponsored benefit program that provides coverage to spouses must also be provided to same-sex spouses. Additionally, employer-sponsored health coverage for same-sex spouses may no longer be imputed as the employee’s income on state filings.
However, state insurance law does not apply to self-insured plans. Therefore, a question remains regarding whether the Supreme Court decision requires employers with self-insured plans to provide health coverage to same-sex spouses. Despite this ambiguity, employers who do not offer health coverage to same-sex spouses will be at risk for both state and federal discrimination claims by their employees.
Employers should review their benefit plans and ensure that any coverage offered to spouses is also offered to same-sex spouses.
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