Last Updated: 05.04.2020

The precedential Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage has various legal implications for state governments, businesses and individuals. However the ruling will also have further financial effects for businesses and their employees.

The Decision

On June 26, 2015the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in a 5-4 decision. The ruling maintained that couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all 50 states. Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that the exclusion of same-sex couples challenges the premise of the right to marry in the United States. In his opinion the Justice wrote, “Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” continuing by saying these laws harm the families of same-sex couples.

Employment Implications of Same Sex Marriage Laws

The decision signifies further benefits for same-sex couples, including health care, estate planning and tax benefits. Prior to the decision, laws regarding such areas and mandates for employers were controlled by state governments. However, employers in all states must now be aware of the various guidelines regarding same-sex couples and financial rights.

In terms of taxes, employers must apply equal tax status to both gay and straight couples with a valid marriage license. This applies to both federal and state tax benefits, including pension plans, Social Security benefits, inheritances and tax credits.

Regarding probate law, surviving spouses—gay or straight—automatically serve as the executor of any will or estate, unless stated otherwise. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements for same sex couples are also now recognized under the law as well.

However for businesses, the greatest effect that this ruling will have will be in the area of healthcare coverage. If a company provides coverage for spouses, they must now extend that coverage to spouses in same-sex marriages and children of those unions. Couples in domestic partnerships need to be aware that with the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, businesses may choose to revoke domestic partnership allowances which were previously covered for couples who met certain criteria or established a domestic partnership. Businesses may now require marriage in order to be eligible for such benefits, as is already the case for heterosexual couples.

ENLawyers: Bottom Line

It is important to be aware of the financial implications that the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling could have on your business. It is possible that an employer may need to restructure policies regarding healthcare, benefits and tax reporting in the wake of the ruling to adhere to federal policy. For any Baltimore small business legal issues, don’t forget to contact ENLawyers by phone at 443.559.4384 or via email at