Supreme Court decision on the fundamental right to marry by same-sex couples: What does this mean for an employer?

On Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, held that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry and there is no lawful basis for states to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another state. This decision could have far-reaching implications for employers who have operated under various federal and state laws that regulate the legal and tax treatment for same-sex unions.

What does the ruling mean for employers?

Many employer's benefits are based upon marital status, including retirement and health care plans and policies. Employers should take the time to review and update their practices and policies that could be impacted by this decision. This includes policies that reference 'spouse' and any gender-specific policies that identify a spouse as man or woman. These policies including FMLA, leave policies, bereavement and others should be updated to include the Supreme Court's definition of marriage.

The decision does not affect federal rights employees are already receiving, as they are protected under previous rulings. However, the ruling impacts state law rights that apply to married couples that will now include same-sex marriages. These rights include laws that apply to benefits, leaves of absences, property rights, and others. Employers should review their handbook to update any reference to these state laws.

For employers, the decision has made it easier in two areas. First, companies with a site in two or more states will be able to have national policies on leaves of absence and similar issues. Secondly, the tax implications are equalized. Previously, there were an array of federal and state tax laws for same-sex couples. Now, for federal and state tax purposes, there will be no difference in tax benefits for married couples- opposite or same-sex- that an employer must administer.

If you have questions about how the Supreme Court decision impacts your policies or would like to discuss a specific policy or practice you have at your establishment, please contact one of Barrett McNagny's Employment attorneys listed below. 

Barrett McNagny LLP

Legal Disclaimer

The information contained in the Barrett McNagny LLP website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice on any subject matter. Furthermore, the information contained on our website may not reflect the most current legal developments. You should not act upon this information without consulting legal counsel.

Your transmission and receipt of information on the Barrett McNagny LLP website, or sending an e-mail to one of our attorneys or staff, will not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Barrett McNagny LLP. If you need legal advice and want to establish an attorney-client relationship with Barrett McNagny LLP, please contact one of our attorneys by telephone, email, or other means of communication, and allow the attorney to confirm that the firm does not represent other persons or entities involved in the matter and that the firm is willing to accept representation. Until such confirmation is provided by one of our attorneys, you should not transmit information to us that you consider confidential. If you do provide information to us, and no attorney-client relationship is established, the information will not be considered confidential or privileged, and our receipt of such information will not preclude us from representing another client in a matter adverse to you.

Any links to other websites are not intended to be referrals or endorsements of those sites.

Privacy Policy

Terms of Use

ADA Compliance

Transparency Cover Rule: Machine-Readable Files

Contact Us
My name is
and I am a(n)
seeking legal counsel in the area of 
me at
as soon as you can.

Thank you for contacting us!

A representative will be in touch with you shortly.

An attorney-client relationship will NOT be formed merely by sending an email to Barrett McNagny, LLP or to any of its attorneys. Please do not send any information specific to your legal needs until you obtain approval from a Barrett McNagny, LLP attorney, as the content of such email will not be considered confidential or privileged. By sending us an email, you confirm your understanding of this notification. If you agree, you may use the e-mail links on this page to contact an attorney.