Same-sex Marriage Legislation Fails in New Jersey, but Survives in Maryland

February 23, 2012 – 5:10 pm | By John Iekel | Post a Comment

Employers in New Jersey won’t have to adjust their plans, documents and policies to accommodate same-sex spouses any time soon. But Maryland may be a different story.

The New Jersey Senate on Feb. 13, and the Assembly on Feb. 16, passed a bill that would have made same-sex marriage legal in the Garden State. But as he had promised, Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed it on Feb. 17. He also expressed support for a statewide voter referendum on the issue. The New Jersey legislature has until the end of the session in January 2014 to try to override Christie’s veto.

Not far to the southwest, Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to allow same-sex marriage in that state on the same day New Jersey’s measure died.

Maryland’s State Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved it in a 7-4 vote on Feb. 21; the full Senate, which approved a similar measure on Feb. 24, 2011, will next take up this year’s bill. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) supports same-sex marriage and has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

But even if the Maryland bill is enacted, that may not settle the issue. Members of the House of Delegates promise to pursue a statewide voter referendum on the matter, as well as an amendment to the state constitution to define marriage as occurring between a man and a woman.

What This Means for Employers

Employers and plan administrators in New Jersey may have dodged the bullet — unless the legislature overrides Christie’s veto — but their Maryland counterparts may not.

Employers and plan administrators in Maryland would be wise to watch developments in their state. If same-sex marriage becomes legal there, they will have to adjust their policies and plan documents accordingly. But they also will have to contend with the added complexity of federal law and regulation not recognizing same-sex marriages while their state law does. That will spell administrative challenges for them, to say the least.

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