Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriage in an additional six states. They are Wyoming, West Virginia, Idaho, North Carolina, Arizona, and Alaska. This recognition means that same-sex couples in these and 26 other states are extended federal benefits such as social security and veteran’s benefits. The government’s announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to decline hearing appeals from five states that attempted to keep their same-sex marriage bans intact. The Supreme Court’s inaction allowed lower court rulings striking down those bans to stand.
Following the announcement, Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael stated that nuptials between same-sex couples could begin in the state. Michael also said, “The Laramie County Clerk will be required to provide marriage licenses to otherwise qualified individuals without regard to whether the applicants are a same-sex couple,” and he added that he anticipates that other counties would also be providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In Arizona, Holder’s announcement followed a recent federal court ruling that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The judge in that case refused to stay his ruling, and same-sex couples are now able to obtain marriage licenses in that state.
Employers in these states should review their benefit offerings to ensure compliance with this change. Please contact your broker and MSEC for further guidance.