Birmingham Medical News: Same-Sex Marriage Issues for Employers

Articles / Publications

In the case of Searcy v. Strange, 2015 WL 328825 (S.D. Ala Jan. 25, 2015), the federal Court for the Southern District of Alabama held that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Alabama news headlines have been filled with same-sex marriage talk ever since, and the Alabama Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue. The status of the Searcy case is up in the air, with conflicting views on the constitutional issues involved. So, what are the implications of Searcy for Alabama employers?

First, let's briefly review how we got to where we are today.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Pub.L. 104-199, 110 STAT. 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 USC § 7 and 28 USC § 1738C) defined marriage for federal law purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and defined spouse as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife. These definitions were struck down as unconstitutional in the case of U.S. v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013). DOMA also provides that states are not required to recognize a same-sex marriage that occurs in another jurisdiction. This part of DOMA still stands. As a result, legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal rights as are legally married opposite sex couples, but states are not required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another jurisdiction.

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