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DOMA decision as it relates to spousal life insurance


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Why do you say that? Would same sex spouses now be eligible? What if the employee & spouse are married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, but live/work in a state that does not?

What about children of the same sex spouse who now presumably are stepchildren of the employee - are they now eligible to participate in the various benefit plans?

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What if the employee & spouse are married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, but live/work in a state that does not?

MoJo's post (post #7) here:

http://benefitslink.com/boards/index.php?/topic/53871-doma-change-and-effect-on-retirement-plans/

gives the current status and indicates to me that the "privileges and immunity clause" he mentions will prevail.

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What I am saying is that the DOMA decision has no impact on an employer's ability to refuse spousal life insurance coverage to same-sex spouses, if it chooses to go that route, or for that matter the insurance company's refusal to offer it to same-sex spouses.

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  • 2 months later...

Time to rethink this issue. ERISA and IRS plan qualification might require recognition of a same sex spouse where marriage is "celebrated" in a state or foreign country which recognizes same sex marriage, despite state law of current residency or situs of plan. See, DOL DOL Techniical Release 2013-04 (9/18/2013) and IRS Rev. Rul. 2013-17 (9/16/2013)

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It seems pretty clear now that if a male participant is legally married to another man (based on the laws of the place where the marriage was performed), then, to the same extent as required with respect to opposite-sex spouses (assuming that it is a requirement), the participant cannot designate someone else to be the beneficiary of the employer-sponsored life insurance without his spouse's consent.

Employer-provided insurance on the life of the spouse may be less clear, but any company providing life insurance on the lives of opposite-sex spouses but not same-sex spouses would seem to be inviting trouble. As Justice Scalia pointed out in his dissent to the DOMA decision, the same arguments used as the rationale for the DOMA decision with respect to federal law could, by little more than replacing "federal" with "state" wherever it appears, stand as a rationale for a similar decision with respect to all state laws. If the Supreme Court were to rule (at some point in the near future) that any laws, federal or state, that treat same-sex marriages as less legitimate than opposite-sex marriages were unconstitutional, would anyone be surprised?

Always check with your actuary first!

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...the participant cannot designate someone else to be the beneficiary of the employer-sponsored life insurance without his spouse's consent.

Agree with QDROphile. Where do you find this in Code or regs?

I'm a retirement actuary. Nothing about my comments is intended or should be construed as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. Occasionally, but not all the time, it might be reasonable to interpret my comments as actuarial or consulting advice.

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I misunderstood the post before my earlier post. I did try to say that it was assumed for my post that there is such a requirement and said that it would be required to the same extent for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples. Sorry if Imuddied the waters. So let's assume it is not required (and I leave it to those who work with employer-provided life insurance to give a more definitive answer on that point).

Always check with your actuary first!

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But, even if the life insurance policy said that the spouse is the default beneficiary absent consent to another beneficiary, the same sex issue would not be impacted at all by DOMA or by the Windsor case. Yes, you'd have an issue as to what "spouse" means, but since there is no Federal law involved DOMA and its repeal would be irrelevant.

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