Effect of Prop 8 and DOMA Rulings Minimal

I have been asked for my opinion on the Surpreme Court Prop 8 and DOMA rulings, both in terms of the outcome and the effect on the workplace.  Here goes.  

I am disappointed by the way the Prop 8 case progressed, with elected officials refusing to defend a constitutional provision passed by the majority of voters.  The inaction is not justified by an official's personal view on the issue at hand. 

As for the effect on the California workplace, with the exception of employee benefit plans, I believe the Court's decisions will be minimal.   California employers have been required for several years to treat registered domestic partners and children in those relationships the same as heterosexual married persons.  This continues to be the law. 

Moreover, any workplace benefits that are afforded to a married couple will be available for same-sex married couples.  For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides leave benefits to care for a spouse who suffers a serious health condition.  These rights will be available to same-sex spouses.  However, this will not have a significant impact on California employers as registered domestic partners were afforded these rights under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). 

Benefit plans, such as medical coverage, provided to employees and spouses of California employees, will cover same-sex spouses and children.  The more complicated question is benefit plan coverage for employees who may be married in California but working in another state where same-sex marriages are not recognized.  Section 2 of DOMA is still effective.  It provides that a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage is not obligated to recognize the same-sex marriage from another state. 

I anticipate that most employers will want their employees and families covered by insurance.  Thus, plan language in benefit plans will probably need to be amended to provide coverage irrespective of state boundaries.  Employers with multi-state operations should consult with their benefit providers to see what changes in benefit plan language can take place.  Nevertheless, with the exception of benefit plans, the Court's recent rulings on same-sex marriages will not significantly impact the California employer.