Same-sex spouses covered by ERISA, regardless of residence News added by Benefits Pro on September 19, 2013

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By Allen Greenberg

The terms “spouse” and “marriage” in ERISA and a host of other employee benefit laws over which the Department of Labor has jurisdiction will now include same-sex couples legally married in any state that recognizes such marriages.

So said the DOL on Wednesday in issuing the latest regulatory guidance since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year.

Most critically, the agency said its determination about how employers should interpret “spouse” and “marriage” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 applies regardless of where an employee and his or her same-sex spouse reside.

Freedom to Work, a group that works to fight workplace discrimination, welcomed the Labor Department’s announcement. “Freedom to Work and thousands of LGBT couples nationwide applaud the Labor Department for adopting ‘state of celebration’ rules that allow gay and lesbian couples from Texas to go to California to get married and then have ERISA protections at their Texas jobs," it said in a statement.

The DOL’s guidance addresses one of the trickier questions to arise from the court’s June decision: whether where a same-sex couple lives affects their benefits eligibility.

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