Same-sex marriage ruling has wide-ranging effects

As you most likely know by now, last month the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated ruling regarding the issue of whether same-sex couples have the right to marry.

Before the Supreme Court's decision, there were countless unknowns and inconsistencies throughout the country involving everything from taxes to employee benefits to estate planning. With such uncertainty, it made it difficult for professionals to provide advice, and challenging for employers to ensure they complied with the law.

The Supreme Court ultimately held that any state law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional as a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. With that, same-sex marriage is now legal throughout the country.

For many people, regardless of their personal beliefs, the ruling was a relief because it provides clarity on an issue that has a wide-ranging impact way beyond the right of same-sex couples to legally marry.

How wide? The following is a non-exhaustive list of topics affected by the Supreme Court's recent ruling:

Health insurance rights and plans; employee retirement plans; other employee benefits; IRAs; life insurance; estate planning; inheritance rights; hospital rights and medical decision-making; adoption; and taxes.

Employers should review all employment policies, procedures, rules and documents to ensure they comply with the effects of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Additionally, the following professionals should consider how this court decision may affect their business practices and the advice they provide to clients and customers:

- Human resource professionals

- CPAs and tax preparers

- Payroll processors

- Attorneys

- Insurance agents

- Financial advisors

- Employee benefit consultants

- Medical professionals

In the short term, there will be necessary business practice adjustments because of the decision.

Ultimately, in the long run, the business community should be happy that the Supreme Court has settled so many unknowns, which as you know, creates risks that businesses prefer to avoid.


Brad A. Brelinski is an attorney with Curtis, Curtis & Brelinski, P.C. in Jackson. He received his JD from Wayne State University Law School in 2005.

Published: Tue, Aug 04, 2015