Pennsylvania same-sex marriage ruling means employers should study policies

On May 20, Pennsylvania became the latest state to have its same-sex marriage ban barred when a federal district judge struck down the state’s 1994 law.

The decision, which followed a similar ruling in Oregon a day earlier, makes Pennsylvania the 19th state to allow same-sex marriage. After the ruling, Governor Tom Corbett said he would consider whether to appeal Judge John E. Jones III’s decision.

If the ruling stands, Pennsylvania employers will need to examine their policies to make sure they don’t discriminate against same-sex couples. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take leave to care for family members, including same-sex spouses, with a serious medical condition. Employer-sponsored benefits for married couples also will need to be extended to same-sex couples.

Jones’ ruling means Pennsylvania will allow same-sex couples to marry in the state, and same-sex couples married in other states will be recognized as married by Pennsylvania.

The decision is the latest in a spate of court rulings reversing state bans on same-sex marriage. Some of the rulings have been suspended pending appeals to federal circuit courts.