Labor Department to recognize all same-sex marriages for private pension benefits

New guidelines will recognize all same-sex marriages for pension benefits, regardless of where the couple lives

By Katie McDonough
September 19, 2013 9:25PM (UTC)
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A gay marriage supporter waves a rainbow flag in anticipation of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, June 24, 2013. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The Labor Department has announced a change to to federal laws governing private employee pension, extending pension and related benefit plans to all married same-sex couples, whether or not the state where the couple lives recognizes their union.

The change comes less than a month after the Treasury Department announced it would recognize all gay marriages for tax code purposes, regardless of where the couple resides.


More from a release from the Labor Department:

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced new guidance interpreting the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. In a technical release, the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration provides guidance to plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, participants and beneficiaries on the decision’s impact on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

The release states that, in general, the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in Title I of ERISA 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. On June 26, 2013, the Windsor decision struck down the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married, same-sex couples.

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said the 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. 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.”

You can read more about the new guidelines here.



Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Gay Rights Labor Rights Lgbt Rights Marriage Equality Workers' Rights