The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) impacted more than a thousand federal laws providing benefits to spouses. To help school districts across the nation better understand this important ruling and the changes they will need to make, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has led an effort to develop a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) in partnership with the National Education Association (NEA) and the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, on school district employers’ and employees’ issues related to the DOMA ruling.
The new document, “The Dos and Don’ts of DOMA: FAQs for school systems and employees on the United States Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage” reviews how employee benefits and plan and policy administration are affected by the ruling, including every policy and benefit that defines or refers to marriage or spouses in the application of a federal benefit. As U.S. school districts employ nearly 6.2 million individuals, the ruling has extensive reach.
“School districts are collectively the largest employers in the U.S. and they need to be aware of how this pivotal ruling changes employee benefits and benefit administration,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This is a major breakthrough in federal employment law, and this document will help clarify the many questions school systems and employees will have as the Court’s ruling is implemented.”
Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages, and the ruling will impact certain federal benefits and rights in all states and could impact collective bargaining agreements. Federal agencies are currently reviewing the ruling under direction from President Obama to implement the Court’s decision “as quickly as possible.”
“The Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor was a major milestone in American history—a monumental decision and a huge step forward for civil rights,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “The National Education Association in partnership with other national labor organizations filed an amicus in the case to document the need for the Court to end the substantial economic discrimination DOMA inflicted on lawfully married same-sex couples. In the wake of the Windsor decision, NEA is pleased to collaborate with the National School Boards Association and the School Superintendents Association on the DOMA Do and Don’ts publication to make sure that school districts and their employees understand how the Windsor decision affects their benefits.”
Key to the DOMA ruling is that employees in a same-sex marriage must receive the same benefits provisions as employees in an opposite-sex marriage, regardless of the state in which they live.
“Married couples should have access to fundamental benefits such as health care and social security,” said Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “We were pleased to collaborate with the National School Boards Association and the National Education Association on this document because it provides important information for school system leaders and their employees about an important issue that affects many individuals and their families.”