New Study Finds Employers Reacting Positively to DOMA Ruling but Looking for Guidance before Making Major Changes to Employee Benefits

August 27, 2013

Stacy Van Alstyne
(262) 373-7746


New Study Finds Employers Reacting Positively to DOMA Ruling but Looking for Guidance before Making Major Changes to Employee Benefits

Supreme Court decision has employers reviewing their benefit plans


Brookfield, WI — Today, the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans released a new survey examining how employers are addressing the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).


The study, titled Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: Impact of the DOMA Decision, found that the clear majority of organizations, 77.1 percent, reacted positively to the DOMA ruling while just 4.9 percent of organizations viewed the decision very negatively. However, while most organizations viewed the decision as positive, the survey found that two-thirds (66 percent) still needed further clarification and guidance on the ruling’s complete impact before making major changes to their employee benefits and policies.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA is a step forward for married same-sex couples, but it poses a number of questions for workers and their employers providing spousal benefits,” said Julie Stich, Research Director for the Foundation. “The decision impacts various types of employee benefits and retirement plans, and poses tax questions for both employers and employees. Employers have to consider how this ruling affects their health insurance in the midst of implementing Affordable Care Act provisions. But some employers have a head start; we found that 55 percent of those surveyed already offer some benefits to same-sex spouses and domestic partners and another almost 7 percent offer benefits to same-sex married couples only.”


Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • Employers are paying attention to DOMA. Approximately two-thirds of organizations (67.1 percent) were paying somewhat, very or extremely close attention to the court’s DOMA decision. Only 14.9 percent of organizations paid no attention to the decision at all.
  • Employees are asking their employers about DOMA in the workplace. One-quarter of organizations (25.1 percent) have already noticed an increase in HR contacts from employees regarding the DOMA decision (most describe this as a slight increase).
  • Many multi-state employers will now provide benefits to same-sex couples even in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. More than half of surveyed organizations (55 percent) are located both in states where same-sex marriage is legal as well as in states where it is not legal. About one-quarter of these organizations (24.1 percent) say they will 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—15.9 percent already do so and 40.2 percent are waiting for regulatory or legal guidance.
  • More employers are offering benefits to all unmarried couples. More than four in ten organizations (44.5%) currently offer benefits to unmarried opposite-sex domestic partners. An additional 10.5% say they are now considering adding benefits for opposite-sex couples, while 5.1% are going the opposite direction and are now considering dropping benefits for unmarried opposite-sex couples.

About the Survey
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. Roughly a month after the decision, on August 6, 2013, 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 915 corporate human resources and benefits professionals, and industry experts. These individuals represent a comprehensive range of organizations with respect to size, industry and region.


To download a copy of the survey, “Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: Impact of the DOMA Decision,” visit


About the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a member-driven organization with five decades of experience as a leading objective source of employee benefits, compensation and financial literacy education and information within the American and Canadian workplace. The Foundation’s expertise is industry wide; and it offers resources that include Foundation staff, training, conferences and research on topics critical to assisting its 33,000 multiemployer, corporate and public sector members respond to trends affecting the well-being of more than 25 million lives in North America. For additional information, visit