Questions and Answers Regarding Same Sex Marriages

 If I was married out-of-state before Whitewood legalized same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, when is my official “date of change” of marital status, for purposes of determining whether my spouse is eligible under my employee benefit plan?

by: Raul Mendoza (Summer Associate)

It may be the case that, before your spouse can qualify under your employee benefit plan, your employer requires you to notify it of a change in marital status within a certain number of days after the marriage.  It is always a good idea to review your employer’s policies to see if such requirement exists.

Those Pennsylvanians who had already legally wed their same-sex partners outside of Pennsylvania before Whitewood was decided may now be wondering when the change in marital status officially “occurred,” now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriage: is it the date that you got married?; is it May 20, 2104, the day the Whitewood opinion was issued and same-sex marriage became legal?; or is it another date – perhaps the date Governor Corbett stated he would not appeal the ruling?  The answer to this question is very important, since in some instances, it may determine whether you are too late in reporting your status change, rendering your spouse ineligible for your employee benefits.

Good news: May 20, 2014, is the effective “change of marital status” date for those same-sex couples married out of state before Whitewood was decided.  As such, Pennsylvania employers should not be able to take the position that couples married outside of Pennsylvania prior to the Whitewood decision needed to report the date of their out-of-state marriage and are now too late to collect spousal benefits.