International Foundation Report Shows Employers Shifting View of "Family"

Stacy Van Alstyne
(262) 373-7746

Brookfield, WI June 26, 2014 — A new report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans revealed that more than 80 percent of companies are providing benefits to couples in same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships. This represents a 34 percent increase over 2013, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. The majority of employers reported offering employee benefits, including health care, disability, life insurance, and more, in an effort to be comprehensive and recognize new family settings throughout the United States.

"We are seeing a significant shift in employers providing benefits to same-sex couples due to the Supreme Court ruling made one year ago today, as well as changes in state laws which resulted from that landmark decision," said Michael Wilson, CEO of the International Foundation. "Some employers are making changes in order to remain compliant with the law, while others are working to create a more inclusive corporate culture through their benefit plans."

The survey, "Employee Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: The DOMA Decision One Year Later" found that 55 percent of employers are approaching sexual-orientation-based benefits with an inclusive view recognizing the changing dynamics of what constitutes a family. This often includes not only same-sex couples who are married, but also same-sex couples who are in civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Key findings regarding employers' benefits for same-sex couples in the International Foundation's report include:

  • Among employers operating both in states where same-sex marriage is legal and in states where it is not legal, 80 percent say they now extend benefit rights to all married same-sex couples even if they live in a state that does not recognize or allow same-sex marriage;
  • Among employers that operate in states where same-sex marriage is not legal, 32 percent now extend benefit rights to all same-sex couples, both married and unmarried;
  • 58 percent of employers reported that recent changes in legislation and legal rulings have had an impact on their organization;
  • 55 percent have actively communicated legislative changes to their staff;
  • 39 percent have noticed an increase in Human Resource questions/contacts from employees.

"Despite the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Section 3 of DOMA, employers recognize that many states do not have legislation supporting same-sex marriage or civil unions," said Julie Stich, CEBS, Director of Research at the International Foundation. "As a result, employers are taking steps to continue or establish new benefits for same-sex couples in order to ensure employees and their spouses are happy and healthy, and receiving benefits."

The vast majority of employers providing benefits to unmarried same-sex domestic partners and those in civil unions plan to continue these benefits even now that same-sex marriage is recognized for federal purposes. Employers noted several reasons for continuing these benefits.

  • 60 percent say they recognize all types of families;
  • 47 percent feel it's the right thing to do;
  • 39 percent stated marriage is not recognized in their state;
  • 28 percent said employees are staying in domestic partnerships or civil unions.

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in U.S. v. Windsor, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which had defined "marriage" for federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman, and a spouse as an opposite-sex husband or wife.  Approximately one year later, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans administered a survey to measure employers' reactions and subsequent efforts in response to the DOMA ruling. Responses were received from 538 corporate human resources and benefits professionals, and industry experts. These individuals represent a comprehensive range of organizations with respect to size, industry and region.

For complete results and more information on the survey, "Employee Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: The DOMA Decision One Year Later", please visit:


About the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to being a leading objective and independent global source of employee benefits and compensation education and information. Total membership includes 33,000 individuals representing multiemployer trust funds, corporations, public employer groups and professional advisory firms throughout the United States and Canada. Each year, the International Foundation offers over 100 educational programs, including conferences and e-learning courses. Membership provides access to personalized research services and daily news delivery. The International Foundation sponsors the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) program in conjunction with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Dalhousie University in Canada.