Federal benefits to unmarried domestic partners under DOMA ruling not available
WASHINGTON -- In a series of memos released last week, the Office of Personnel Management, (OPM) announced that same-sex or other couples who are not legally married “will remain ineligible for most federal benefits programs.” However, any existing benefits provided to domestic partners will remain intact." This means that the government will treat civil unions differently than legal same-sex marriages.
The action by OPM follows the June 26 decision by the Supreme Court which ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and had prohibited the government from recognizing same-sex marriage for purposes of federal benefits programs preventing same-sex spouses of federal workers from receiving coverage through their partners’ plans.
In a memo to federal benefits administrators, John O’Brien, OMP's Director for Healthcare and Insurance, outlined changes in the status of federal benefits as a result of the DOMA ruling, noting that guidelines will apply to all federal workers, regardless of whether they live in states that have banned same-sex marriage. That means same sex couples living anywhere in the U.S. will qualify for federal-employee benefits as long as they hold marriage licenses from any of the 13 states that recognize same-sex marriage, as well as from the District of Columbia, which has also legalized such unions. OPM also issued a memo to all insurance and benefits carriers affected as a result of the ruling.
OPM acknowledged Tuesday that treatment guidelines for benefits of same-sex couples and domestic partners outside the federal workforce, including with Social Security, tax and veterans’ benefits have not yet been established.
OPM has given legally married same-sex couples until August 26 to apply for federal-employee benefits and two years to change their status for retirement benefits.