The federal courts keep working out the details of the Supreme Court’s DOMA decisions and, so far at least, all in our favor. The most recent ruling comes from a federal court judge who says that federal law regulating companies’ retirement plans must make the same benefits available to surviving same-sex spounses as they do to surviving opposite-sex spouses.
The case involves Jennifer Tobits, who had married her partner, Sarah Ellyn Farley, in Canada. Farley died in 2010, and Tobits sought death benefits payment from Farley’s employer, a law firm, under the firm’s profit sharing plan. Farley’s parents sought the same death benefit payment.
In his ruling, Judge C. Darnell Jones II said that the DOMA decision meant the benefit should go to Tobits. “Following the [Supreme] Court’s ruling, the term ‘Spouse’ is no longer unconstitutionally restricted to members of the opposite sex, but now rightfully includes those same-sex spouses in ‘otherwise valid marriages,” Jones wrote.
Shannon Minter, the National Center for Lesbian Rights attorney representing Tobits, said the ruling was “not only a victory for Jennifer and Ellyn, it is a victory for every married same-sex couple in the country. No longer can employers hide behind DOMA to deny equal benefits to some employees solely because their spouse is a person of the same sex.”
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