The Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decisions: What You Should Know

The two decisions on gay marriage issued in June by the United States Supreme court have received a great deal of media attention.  One of the decisions, United States v. Windsor, struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby making federal benefits accessible to same sex couples who have been married in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Despite their very important effects, neither of these decisions have any immediate effect on employment discrimination claims based on sexual orientation or transgender status.  Texas currently has no laws that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.  Several Texas cities, including Austin, have municipal ordinances that prohibit such discrimination, but enforcement is difficult. Federal law does not currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but may prohibit discrimination based on gender identifications or gender-based attributes.

The extent to which federal law prohibits discrimination based on gender-based characteristics is a murky and, although unaffected by the Supreme Court’s June decisions, a rapidly changing area of the law.  It will be reviewed during Graves Dougherty’s October employment seminar, so stay tuned.

For more information about the Defense of Marriage Act, or any other employment law related questions, please contact the head of GDHM’s Employment Law group, Susan Burton, at sburton@gdhm.com or 512.480.5738.

Notice: We are providing this client alert as a commentary on current legal issues, and it should not be considered legal advice, which depends on the facts of each situation. Receipt of this client alert does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The listed attorneys and / or other attorneys may provide services in connection with a particular matter.