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Posted June 26th, 2013 in Legal Insights with Tags , , , , , , ,

Breaking News: What the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Definition of Marriage Means for Employers

In 2012 and 2013, a handful of states joined the ranks of those who recognize same-sex marriage, making it more likely that national employers are impacted by the varying marriage laws, whether they realize it or not. And with Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down by the Supreme Court today, employers must revisit their practices to ensure they properly administer benefits for same-sex married couples. Nilan Johnson Lewis labor and employment attorneys Sarah Riskin and Katie Connolly say that with the change in marriage laws, employers should undergo a full systems review of their HR handbooks, health and benefit plans, enrollment policies and taxation activities. Riskin notes that employers in her state of Minnesota, which will officially begin recognizing same-sex marriages as of August 1, should begin the process and seek legal advice if they have not already. “This is a fast-changing environment. The full impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA will reach many employers, especially those operating in multiple states,” she says.

Connolly also encourages employers to rethink their domestic partner policies. “Some Minnesota employers who created their policies with the intent of being inclusive, now run the risk of being exclusive in violation of the law,” says Connolly, who recently litigated a case in which the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota found that domestic partner policies limited to same-sex couples did not violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act. But, that holding was before Minnesota began to recognize same-sex marriage, and before the Supreme Court rejected DOMA, both of which might influence such a claim.

To discuss the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision today on DOMA, the new Minnesota same-sex marriage law or the interplay between the two, please contact Sarah Riskin at 612-305-7713 ( or Katie Connolly at 612-305-7546 (

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