City Attorney Pete Holmes on Wednesday joined City officials in welcoming the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying the decision in Windsor v. United States now allows the City to treat its employees equally.
The City of Seattle and a number of other cities and corporations filed an amicus brief with the high court, in support of the challenge to DOMA. Click here to read the amicus brief.Seattle’s position was that all married couples, whether same- or opposite-sex, should have access to the full benefits of marriage under the law, and that the administrative framework imposed by DOMA increased costs for the City by requiring it to treat some employees differently from others. In addition, the City joined in the filing of an amicus brief in the second case decided today by the Supreme Court, Hollingsworth v. Perry, supporting the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. As a result of today’s decision refusing to hear a challenge to the lower courts’ decision overturning Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage, it appears that same-sex couples in California have the right to marry.
Both decisions validate the City’s position that same-sex couples should have the same right to marry and receive benefits as opposite-sex couples.
As Holmes explained, the City was required by federal law to tax employees in same-sex marriages for the value of their spouses’ health insurance, while opposite-sex married couples did not pay tax on those benefits. In addition, the City had to pay payroll taxes on the value of these benefits as if the benefits are wages earned by employees in same-sex marriages. Today’s decision in Windsor ends that discrimination.
“Just like any employer,” Holmes said, “we want clear, simple rules for how we provide benefits to our employees. We want to treat the health insurance we provide to same-sex spouses and families just like we do for opposite-sex spouses, so that we can free up more money to put to other uses. But we also signed on to the brief for the simple reason that we believe government should treat everyone the equally.”