Practical Law Analysis of DOMA and Proposition 8 Decisions

June 28, 2013

Report reviewOn June 26, 2013, the US Supreme Court issued two high-profile rulings involving same-sex marriage. The decisions will have significant implications for health and retirement plan administration, in addition to other employment-related consequences.

In United States v. Windsor, the Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional on Fifth Amendment grounds. Section 3 defined the terms “spouse” and “marriage” for purposes of federal law (including the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA and the FMLA) as being solely between one man and one woman. Notably, the case did not involve the constitutionality of DOMA’s other operative provision, Section 2, which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court held that the supporters of California’s Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in that state, lacked standing to defend it in federal court, and therefore could not appeal a district court decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

In response to the Court’s DOMA Section 3 decision, the IRS stated that it is reviewing the ruling, will be coordinating with the Departments of Treasury and Justice, and will “move swiftly” to provide updated guidance in the near future.

For Practical Law’s full analysis of the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Proposition 8 rulings, see: