Retiree Benefits Extended to Gay Spouses by U.S. Ruling

Gay spouses will be treated as married for retirement-plan benefits even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their union, the U.S. Labor Department said.

The department issued guidance today stating that the terms “spouse” and “marriage” under employee-benefit rules for private-sector pension plans such as 401(k)s would apply to gay married couples.

“This decision represents a historic step toward equality for all American families,” said labor secretary Thomas E. Perez in an e-mailed statement. “The department plans to issue additional guidance in the coming months as we continue to consult with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies.”

The decision follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June to overturn part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited gay couples from transferring retirement accounts between spouses in the same way as heterosexual couples.

The Treasury Department announced Aug. 29 that gay spouses in all states will be treated as married under federal tax law even if local authorities don’t recognize their marriages. Prior to that, the Internal Revenue Service was prohibited from letting married homosexual couples file joint tax returns.

It is the second expansion of benefits for American workers this week. Yesterday, the Labor Department issued a final rule to extend minimum wage and overtime benefits to nearly 2 million home health-care workers.

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Collins in New York at; Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at

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