Split of circuits on same-sex marriage bans

Last week, the Sixth Circuit upheld same-sex marriage bans in four states within the circuit, including Tennessee.  After four circuit courts had struck down such bans in other areas of the country, including in Virginia, there is now an expectation that the Supreme Court will address laws banning same-sex marriage.

These opinions impact employers regarding application of workplace policies and handling of benefits.  Under the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor opinion, same-sex spouses are married for federal tax purposes, provided they were married in a state that allows same-sex marriage.  Currently for employers, this impacts qualified retirement plans.

The Sixth Circuit opinion is a 2-1 ruling with a 42-page opinion and a 21 page dissent.  Most commentators expect the Supreme Court to take up the issue now that there is a split in the circuit courts.  We will monitor upcoming opinions for their effect 0n workplace policies and management of employees.