The U.S. Department of Labor on Sept. 18 announced guidance for plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, participants and beneficiaries on employee benefits, especially retirement, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling repealing the Defense of Marriage Act's ban on federal recognition of gay marriage.
Labor said that, in general, the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and in related department regulations should be read to include same-sex couples legally married in any state or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes such marriages, regardless of where they currently live.
“This decision represents a historic step toward equality for all American families, and I have directed the department’s agency heads to ensure that they are implementing the decision in a way that provides maximum protection for workers and their families,” Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a news release. “The department plans to issue additional guidance in the coming months as we continue to consult with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to implement the decision.”
“By providing greater clarity on how the Supreme Court’s decision affects one of the laws we enforce, we are contributing to greater equality and greater protection for America’s working families,” added assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi.
The Employee Benefits Security Agency protects the retirement, health and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers, retirees and their families.
The agency oversees about 701,000 private sector retirement plans, 2.3 million health plans and other plans that provide benefits to more than 141 million Americans. Collectively, these plans hold more than $7.3 trillion in assets.