Equal treatment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community seemed like a pipe dream in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.
But things came full circle in June 2013 when the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional. With attitudes changing significantly over the past two decades, employers should be aware of five key developments involving LGBT issues that are sure to expand employment law protections.
1. US Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA
In June 2013, the Supreme Court made history by issuing two decisions favoring same sex marriage proponents. In United States v. Windsor, the Court struck down section 3 of DOMA, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, as a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. As a result of this ruling, married same-sex couples residing in states where same-sex marriages are legal are now eligible for more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections linked to marital status. In states where same sex marriage is recognized, same-sex spouses will be afforded protection under federal laws such as COBRA, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and ERISA.