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Effect on PBGC Benefits of the Supreme Court's Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

Effect on PBGC Benefits of the Supreme Court's Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA provided that, in interpreting any federal law, a "marriage" was limited to "a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife" and a "spouse" was only "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, these definitions are no longer a factor in PBGC's benefit determinations.

PBGC's longstanding policy is to determine a person's marital status by looking to the laws of the "place of celebration" — meaning that so long as a marriage was valid where it took place, it is valid for PBGC purposes. Therefore, PBGC will treat you as married if your marriage was valid where it occurred, regardless of the laws of the state in which you now live. This rule applies to both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.

If you are the spouse of a participant in a pension plan, you are generally entitled to survivor benefits unless you waive them in writing. These include a qualified preretirement survivor annuity (QPSA) and a benefit under a Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity (QJSA). Also, a divorced spouse may be eligible to obtain a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), giving a portion of the participant's benefit to that former spouse. See the Glossary for further details.

If you have questions on how the rules apply in your specific situation, please call PBGC's customer contact center at 1-800-400-7242 for more information.