Thoughts From Attorneys on the SCOTUS gay marriage decision

Last week in a truly historic decisions, the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) struck down state laws that prohibited marriage between gay and lesbian Americans. Regardless of whether you agree with this decision or not, it is the law of the land unless otherwise reversed. Therefore, as businesses operating under this new law, it’s incumbent upon you, as the business owner or decision maker, to make sure that your business operations and policies are in line with this new decision.

Therefore, take a look at the helpful advice given by employment attorneys below and adjust accordingly to make sure you are legally compliant with the SCOTUS ruling. It’s one of many ways to stay “IN business and OUT of Court.”

“After the Obergfell v. Hodges decision, employers will definitely need to review their policies to ensure that insurance coverage applies to same-sex spouses. However, while this is a landmark decision for the country, there are many rights that the LGBT community are still denied. Under current federal law an employer can still discriminate against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. Nothing in the decision changes this area of the law. I do however, expect that you will see the EEOC begin to try to push the envelope on this issue as well as lobby congress for changes to employment discrimination laws to include individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.” – From Marcus Keegan, Esq. of Keegan Law Firm.

The short story is that private employers should be doing at least three things right now in anticipation of certain federal law (and state law) changes. First, employers should call its health insurance providers to ensure that “dependents” includes same-sex spouses. Then, if needed, solicitations to your workforce for any needed and desired updates for these benefits should made. Second, update those employee handbooks! Ensure that family-related policies include same-sex marriages and same-sex parents – notably, sick leave, FMLA Leave, Bereavement, Nepotism or Conflict of Interest, and Parental Leave policies should be “triple checked” for inclusion and accuracy. Third, private employers should be prepared for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that mandates equal employment opportunity in private workplaces, to be amended (swiftly) to include prohibitions of discrimination and harassment in the workplace based on sexual orientation. As such, EEO policies and posters should be updated and training for supervisors and employees on preventing harassment in the workplace should be offered with this new category of protection. There is a lot for HR professionals and businesses to do.- From Jennifer Keaton, Esq. and Vice President of WorkPlace Investigations Group

The Court’s decision undoubtedly leaves employers with lots of work to do – applying spousal benefits to same-sex couples may be somewhat of a ministerial task, but still has to be done and done properly.  FMLA and other HR policies will also have to be tweaked to account for the broader effects of the ruling.     Prudent employers will also take a longer view on where this issue is headed, and can reasonably expect (to the extent they’ve not already anticipated it) that LGBT characteristics will, in one way or another, be included in the roster of those upon which it is unlawful to base employment decisions.    Furthermore, the matter of how LGBT-rights interact with Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based upon a person’s religion will also be interesting to watch develop.  Employers, unfortunately, and irrespective of politics, can’t consider any of these issues settled.- Todd Stanton, Esq. of Stanton Law, LLC

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, this is a great time for attorneys looking to expand their practice, especially, in the areas of family law and employment law. In the employment sector, title VII’s definition of same sex discrimination will probably expand as a result of the courts landmark decision.  What may be tricky to the Courts and attorneys alike is the application of the laws already in place as it relates to same-sex married couples.  Moreover, I see this as a time where the outcome of these types of cases will determine what the “new norm” is in US society.  Same-sex vs. religious belief arguments may be a new hot issue before Courts nationwide.  To service an expanding client group, I recommend that all litigators, employment, and business lawyers increase their knowledge of the law and its application.”Tiffany Simmons, Esq. of Simmons Law

Last Friday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a right that is protected by the Constitution, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the nation. The lawsuit was brought by 14 same-sex couples and 2 men whose same-sex partners are deceased, challenging the bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In a 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy poignantly wrote: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. [The Plaintiffs’] hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Celebrations rang out across the country in response to the announcement of the decision. The United States is now the 22nd country in the world to recognize the right of its citizens to marry, regardless of sex.
The ruling will have an effect on immigration. The big move for immigration purpose came when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013. This meant that the federal government, including the immigration services, had to recognize a same-sex marriage that was entered in a state that performed such marriages. For the first time, a foreign national in a same-sex relationship had the same right to a green card through marriage as any heterosexual foreign national. For employment-based non-immigrant or temporary visa applicants, same-sex spouses will eligible for derivative visa issuance, and in some cases, issuance of work cards.Karen Weinstock, Esq., Managing Attorney at Weinstock Immigration Lawyers

And there you have it! Great, practical advice from those that are the BEST in the business. If you need additional information or help, make sure you contact these employment experts to make sure you stay legally compliant in light of the recent SCOTUS decision on gay marriage.


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