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Same-Sex Marriage and Your LACERA Benefits

federal benefits and protections apply

In light of the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court Decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have ruled legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling does not apply to registered domestic partners.

On August 29, 2013, the IRS announced same-sex couples lawfully married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Under this ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes where marriage is a factor, including income tax and gift and estate taxes.

if domestic partners marry

California law permits registered domestic partners to marry each other without dissolving the domestic partnership. In such cases, the LACERA benefits of the couple are not impacted.

However, dissolving a same-sex domestic partnership prior to the partners marrying each other may jeopardize the non-LACERA member's future eligibility for continuing benefits.

Potential Impact on LACERA Benefits

Under the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (CERL), to qualify as a surviving spouse of a retired member and receive continuing benefits under the Unmodified or Unmodified+Plus Retirement Option, a spouse must have been married to the member at least one year prior to the date of the member's retirement. In 2003, the County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution extending the same survivor benefits and eligibility rules to Registered Domestic Partners.

As a result, LACERA applies the date of the Registered Domestic Partnership when determining a domestic partner's eligibility for continuing benefits. However, if a same-sex couple dissolves their domestic partnership prior to marrying each other, the continuity of the lawfully recognized relationship is broken. In such cases, if the couple subsequently marries each other, LACERA will apply the date of the marriage when determining spousal eligibility for continuing benefits; the date of the Registered Domestic Partnership will not be considered. If the member's marriage does not occur one year prior to his or her service retirement date, the spouse will not qualify for surviving spouse benefits from LACERA upon the member's death.*

Retiree Terminates Same-Sex Partnership Prior to Marriage: Effect on LACERA Benefits
Retirement Option Effect on Benefits Reason
Unmodified or Unmodified+Plus Same-sex partner is ineligible for continuing benefits upon your death. Terminating same-sex partnership breaks continuity of lawfully recognized relationship; survivor does not meet requirement for registered domestic partnership or marriage one year prior to member's retirement. Subsequent marriage is not considered.
Option 1 No effect. No continuing benefits under this Option; lump-sum payment only.
Option 2, 3, or 4 No effect. No requirement for marriage or domestic partnership.

If same-sex registered domestic partners marry each other and then dissolve their domestic partnership, the non-member's future eligibility for LACERA continuing benefits is not jeopardized.

Possible Effect on Survivor Eligibility for Healthcare

Terminating your registered same-sex domestic partnership can also jeopardize your partner's eligibility to enroll in a LACERA-administered health plan after you're gone. To be eligible to enroll in a LACERA-administered health plan following your death, your survivor must be receiving a continuing monthly benefit from LACERA.**

For questions regarding marriage and/or the dissolution of domestic partnerships, consult a professional advisor; LACERA does not offer legal advice. For questions regarding your retirement benefits, call 800-786-6464 to speak with a LACERA Retirement Benefits Specialist.

*In a service-connected disability retirement, the one-year requirement does not apply. The marriage or registration of California domestic partnership need only have occurred prior to the member's retirement date.
**Survivor must also qualify as a surviving eligible dependent under LACERA's Retiree Healthcare Administrative Guidelines.


NOTE: California law permits registered domestic partners to marry each other without dissolving the partnership.