6 Ways the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision Affects South Dakota Businesses

In a historic 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court recently extended marriage rights to all Americans, ruling that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and that states don’t have the right to refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages from other states.

The decision means that South Dakota will now have to stop enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage. Here are six ways that the Supreme Court’s decision will likely impact South Dakota businesses:

1. Health Insurance

Group health plans often provide some degree of subsidized health insurance to employees and their spouses - usually on a tax-free basis. A same-sex spouse can now be included on a company’s health insurance plan - just like a “traditional” married couple.

2. Social Security Benefits

Spouses in a same-sex marriage will be eligible for social security benefits, as well as being covered under the survivor benefits rule for both defined contribution and defined benefit plans.

3. COBRA Plan

Under some circumstances, COBRA provides workers and their families with the right to continue group health plan benefits. Most “qualifying events” are related to the worker or their spouse. 

4. Retirement Plans

The definition of “marriage” and “spouse” often plays an important role in retirement plans. For instance, a same-sex spouse is entitled to death benefits under a plan unless the spouse consents to another beneficiary. If there is no beneficiary designation, the account is distributed to a default beneficiary - usually the surviving spouse. 

5. Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees of covered employers (typically those with 50 or more employees) to take job-protected leave for up to twelve weeks for personal or family member illness. This also includes the care of an employee’s spouse, family member military leave, adoption, and pregnancy.

6. Consent and Eligibility Forms

Business owners will likely have to modify benefit enrollment processes for health insurance, retirement, etc. and create or modify consent and eligibility forms.