- First Post-Windsor ERISA Decision
- September 18, 2013 | Author: Howard A. Shapiro
- Law Firm: Proskauer Rose LLP - New York Office
The pension plan document defined spouse as a person to whom the participant was married for more than one year. The plan document did not address the issue of same-sex marriage. The court held that if the plan is silent as to the definition of spouse, the court will look to ERISA and the Code to determine who can be a spouse. The court then held that, post-Windsor, the term spouse is no longer unconstitutionally restricted to members of the opposite sex, but now includes same-sex spouses in otherwise valid marriages.
The facts in Cozen make the court's decision interesting in certain respects. Of particular note is that the participant died prior to the Windsor decision, and it is also noteworthy that the couple lived in a civil union state (as opposed to a state that allows same-sex marriage). Query whether the court's decision would have been different had the couple lived in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions of any kind.