DOL issues guidance on definition of spouse and marriage

On September 18, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Technical Release 2013-04, which provides additional guidance on the definition of spouse and marriage with regard to same-sex couples.

The Technical Release provides that the terms "spouse" and "marriage" in Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) and in related department regulations should be read to include same-sex couples legally married in any state or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes such marriages, regardless of where the individuals currently live.

The DOL reasoned that (1) this was the most natural interpretation of the terms “spouse” and “marriage”; (2) that the interpretation was consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor which struck the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) provision limiting marriage to opposite sex couples as unconstitutional; and (3) a narrower interpretation would not further the purposes of the relevant statutes and regulations.

The full text of the Technical Release can be found on the DOL website at

Please contact your Trust Fund counsel for more information on this subject.

By Patricia Davis | September 24, 2013

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