When a Marriage is Legal in One State but not Another

Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and the District of Columbia currently issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. New York and Maryland do not, but recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island allow civil unions, providing state-level spousal rights to same-sex partners. California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington grant nearly all state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples. Finally, Hawaii, Maine, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia provide some state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples.

Both Colorado and Arizona have constitutional language defining marriage. So what should an employer do when it offers benefits for married couples and employees operating in a state with a different definition of marriage? For some benefits, consider who you want the benefit to apply to (e.g., bereavement leave). For other benefits discuss with your broker the various states where you have employees and the appropriate definitions, so you can administer your plans clearly, consistently, and in compliance with the local laws.