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As the controversial debate over same-sex marriage continues, advocates for marriage equality press on. This June marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in United States v. Windsor, which found a part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and permits federal benefits to same-sex couples, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which re-instated same-sex marriage in California.
Despite the rulings, legislation around the country continues to aim at the rights of LGBT citizens.
On Sunday, Aug. 10, at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Boston, a panel of nationally recognized experts on LGBT legal issues will explain the current status of the law, how we reached it and the impact of the Court’s decisions. “Same-Sex Marriage after U.S. v. Windsor & Hollingsworth v. Perry: What Lawyers Need to Know about the Implications on Employment Law, Litigation and Public Policy” will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the Hynes Convention Center, Room 306, on the third level. The program is co-sponsored by the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian K. Sims, who will be on the panel, said the impact of the Court’s decisions in Pennsylvania was welcomed, but LGBT residents “find themselves still navigating difficult situations.”
“While same-sex marriage is now legal, discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations is still legal in much of the state,” said Sims. “So, an LGBT person who gets married and places a photo of their spouse on their desk at work can still be fired from their job.”
He added, “Currently, there is an inadequate patchwork of municipal nondiscrimination laws that only protects approximately 40 percent of the state.”
The program will examine LGBT issues involving family leave, welfare benefits, retirement benefits, tax, ERISA litigation and the opportunity for employers to navigate the nuances between federal and state law as it relates to same-sex marriage.
Sims said that employers should start to recognize that in many ways, while federal laws work to supplement state marriage laws regarding equality, the federal government is helping to lead the charge to full marriage equality right now.
“As a result, I’d advise employers to be extremely mindful of efforts at the federal level to expand marriage rights and to understand that nonmarriage equality states have laws that are extremely vulnerable to challenge, and every indication is that those laws will change in the near future,” Sims added.
Joining Sims on the panel will be moderator Teresa Renaker, a shareholder with Lewis, Feinberg, Renaker, & Jackson, PC; Robert Lewis, counsel for ERISA and Employee Benefits, U.S. Department of Labor; and Mary L. Bonauto, civil rights project director for GLADD.
Sims added that those who plan to attend this session at the Annual Meeting should walk away with “a broad-based understanding of the impact of state and federal litigation and legislation on marriage equality and how it is specifically effecting employees and employers throughout the country.”