The Human Rights Campaign has found that nearly 90 percent of large employers it surveyed offer spousal benefits to same-sex partners of employees. This includes 61 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the survey, an increase from the preceding year. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in 34 states, including Wisconsin, and there is no federal law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination. The survey by the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group suggests that big businesses are moving towards their own extension of gay rights without the legal requirement to do so.
All of this comes after the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year to strike down certain provisions of the Defense Against Marriage Act, which had forbidden the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. As a result of that decision, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Labor Department ruled that spouses of deceased same-sex partners who had been legally married were entitled to the late spouse's benefits, regardless of which state they lived in. This may have caused some companies to change their policies to be in compliance. In addition, large companies could be sued for discrimination if they fail to offer benefits to same-sex spouses who are legally married. Many companies have decided to extend benefits for same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships as well.
As the fight for marriage equality continues, employment and tax laws continue to change for same-sex partners. An attorney with experience in employment law may be able to advise a client on emerging trends and rule changes.
Source: WXOW, "Gay partner benefits growing at Fortune 500 firms", Lisa Leff, December 08, 2013