On Jan. 26, 2015, a federal district court ruled that Alabama's prohibitions against permitting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Previously, the court ruled that Alabama's prohibitions against recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. The court blocked the state from enforcing these prohibitions, but stayed both rulings until Feb. 9, 2015 (Strawser v. Strange, S.D. Ala., No. 1:14-cv-00424, 1/26/15; Searcy v. Strange, S.D. Ala., No. 1:14-cv-00208, 1/23/15). On Feb. 9, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the application for a continued stay. Therefore, it appears that same-sex marriage is legal in Alabama.
The rapid changes in state marriage laws have important effects for individuals in Alabama and for employers administering state tax rules. They are less significant for purposes of administering federal tax and benefit rules due to the Supreme Court's Windsor decision and subsequent agency guidance recognizing all same-sex spouses regardless of state of residence. Employers in Alabama should work closely with their attorneys and tax advisors to ensure plan design compliance in light of the ongoing developments in this area.
This will most likely mean that group health insurance policies issued in Alabama will need to amend their plan documents to offer coverage to same-sex spouses. We are expecting further guidance from the state and will report such in future editions of Compliance Corner.
Strawser v. Strange »
Searcy v. Strange »
Feb. 9, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court Order »