Susan Wetzel in Texas Lawyer: SCOTUS Same-Sex Ruling Stirs Up Questions for Employee Benefits Bar


After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling barring states' same-sex marriage bans, President Barack Obama described the decision as "justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."

"I think people are still reeling a little bit," Susan Wetzel said.

Wetzel, a partner in the Dallas office of Haynes and Boone, began receiving and addressing inquiries from employer-clients about what the ruling means for them almost immediately after the court issued the 5-4 decision. With the ruling, the high court overturned gay marriage bans in the 14 states, including Texas, that had such laws on the books...

Among the more perplexing ones, Wetzel and other employment benefit lawyers confront the issue of when do employers have to alter tax-deferred benefit plans to include recognition of employees' same-sex spouses to comply with the IRS and U.S. Department of Labor rules? Will employers owe same-sex married employees, whose spouses previously went unrecognized, retroactive benefits? Will employers have an opportunity to shed costs by no longer offering domestic partnership benefits, since those were devised as a response to same-sex marriage bans?

Wetzel said she expects the IRS and the Labor Department to give guidance soon, as they did after the Supreme Court issued in 2013 a ruling striking down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states.

Excerpted from Texas Lawyer. To read the full article, click here (subscription required).

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