Work it Out Blog

The Supreme Court's Same-sex Marriage Decision: What Employers Need to Know

Jul 15, 2015 by Jill C. McQueen

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.   The Court’s landmark decision is based largely upon the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and effectively permits same-sex marriage in all fifty states.  How will this decision affect employers?

Generally, if you offer health insurance for an employee’s spouse, you will need to offer it to all married couples, including same-sex married couples.  Also, while some employers already offer benefits for domestic partnerships, some may choose to phase these out.  Same-sex couples now have a constitutional right to marry, largely eliminating the need for domestic partnership benefits.  For both federal and state taxes, same-sex married couples will be treated the same as heterosexual married couples, necessitating changes on some tax and benefit forms.

While there is still no federal law protecting LBGT employees from private employer discrimination, you can expect that to change.  Federal courts have long ruled that private employers cannot discriminate based upon sex stereotypes or gender non-conformity, which often affects trans-gendered individuals.  While the courts have largely declined to extend this protection to include sexual orientation, the EEOC’s current enforcement position does extend this protection to lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.  Finally, on July 21, 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order # 13672, which extends two prior executive orders by prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity for all federal employees and federal contractors.  This order affects over 32 million workers, or approximately 23% of the entire U.S. workforce. Other state and local laws also prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. 

You can be assured that, in the near future, federal and state private employer discrimination laws will be extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.  Employers would be wise to begin tailoring their HR policies and employee training to include these two classifications. Please contact your Day Ketterer Attorney at, 330.455.0173, or info@dayketterer.com, to learn more. 

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.