One might think the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing gay couples nationwide the right to marry would have some impact on federal employee and retirement benefits.
But since OPM has been ahead of the curve on this issue, the SCOTUS ruling merely solidifies the standing of these federal benefits already being provided to employees and retirees and their spouses as a family.
Ever since a 2013 court ruling invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), OPM began extending same-sex spouses all the benefits that married couples have been traditionally eligible for.
This includes federal employment benefits such as health insurance and federal retirement benefits such as survivor annuity programs.
The only qualifier that OPM had in place for offering these and other such benefits to same-sex couples was that they had to have been married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage.
Some federal benefits are available to same-sex spouses of federal employees and retirees regardless of their location or jurisdiction. For example, they qualify as survivor beneficiaries for the Thrift Savings Plan accounts of federal employees and retirees.
Same-sex spouses may also receive coverage as part of the family under family life insurance, vision and dental insurance, etc. Since the DOMA ruling in 2013, children of same-sex couples have likewise already begun to receive coverage under these programs as part of the family.
With the SCOTUS ruling now providing absolute clarity, the jurisdiction limitation is eliminated and the federal government will now offer all same-sex spouses the federal employment and retirement benefits that are available to married couples by law.
Funnily enough, the new SCOTUS ruling may actually reduce certain federal employee benefits that were being offered, such as travel and relocation benefits. Since same-sex couples could only be married in certain states, the federal government was offering these benefits to these couples who certified that they wanted to travel and/or relocate in order to get married.