US: University System of Georgia to recognise same-sex spouses in retirement plans

Ashley Chhibber July 1, 2014
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The University System of Georgia has extended the tax benefits in its retirement plan to same-sex spouses of employees, despite the state’s continued ban on same-sex marriage.

The system’s governing board voted on Monday to adjust the existing Optional Retirement Plan to include same-sex couples in the definition of ‘spouse’, following a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS ruled that that retirement plans should recognise same-sex marriages conducted in states with equal marriage laws, even if the plan applies to a state which does not recognise such marriages.

Under Georgia’s new plan, the same-sex beneficiary partners of employees will be eligible for the same federal tax benefits and decreased federal fees as an opposite-sex spouse.

Officials say the change was prompted by federal guidance and derives from the 2013 Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Marion Fedrick, vice chancellor of human resources for the university system, explained that the change won’t affect the system’s finances.

“It’s a very small change for us. It’s really to the benefit of the beneficiary,” she said.

Around 27,000 employees currently participate in the system’s Optional Retirement Plan, though it is not yet known how many will be affected by the new guidelines.

Previous attempts to extend domestic partner benefits, spearheaded by now-retired University of Georgia President Michael Adams, have been denied by the university’s foundation.

Equal marriage was banned in Georgia after an update to the state’s constitution, following a referendum in 2004.

Nation gay-friendly organisation Lambda Legal filed a suit in April, on behalf of seven people, to challenge this ban.

A peaceful protest in May saw same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses, despite the ban, and then posting copies of their rejection letters on Twitter.

Related topics: DOMA, Employment, equal marriage, Georgia, irs, retirement, same sex marriage, University, US

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