6/27/13: In a landmark ruling yesterday, the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). Application of this law prevented legally married same-sex employees at federal agencies such as the SEC from enjoying the same benefits extended to other married employees. Going forward, these employees will receive those benefits, such as spouse coverage under federal health insurance.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted:
"By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same state, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law. DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex merriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects...and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples."
Kennedy concluded that DOMA is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment:
“What has been explained to this point should more than suffice to establish that the principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage. This requires the Court to hold, as it now does, that DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”
The Union has long advocated for equal treatment for same sex couples in the federal government. Chapter 293 previously successfully negotiated an agreement at the SEC to provide health insurance premium reimbursements to same sex married couples and domestic partners, and subsequently successfully litigated the issue to ensure that agreement's implementation at the agency. In addition, NTEU nationally has long supported passage of the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act. Please see this letter from NTEU National President Colleen Kelley yesterday, urging OPM to quickly provide guidance for extending benefits to same sex married couples in federal agencies.
Chapter 293 President Greg Gilman has created a committee to work with the SEC's Office of Human Resources to ensure that Federal benefits are quickly extended to all eligible SEC employees as broadly as possible in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling. The committee is co-chaired by Union stewards Cate Whiting and Lance Alworth. Anyone who is interested in serving on this Committee should send an email to Greg.
In the meantime, please join the Union in congratulating all of our friends at the SEC who, until yesterday, were treated as second class citizens.