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Marriage and Injury
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The US Supreme court has upheld gay marriage in Massachussetts by not hearing a challenge to the state law.


Massachusetts attorneys argued that the group filing the suit had failed to show they were an injured party under the decision. 'Deeply felt interest in the outcome of a case does not constitute an actual injury,' said Merita Hopkins, a city attorney in Boston.


Ah...true enough. General moral decay, however you may define it, does not lead to an injured party...or, if it does, the causal chain would be far too blurry to make the case. "Your Honor, my children are wanton and unruly due to the general societal decay brought about by allowing gay marriage in my state." Uh, right.

What's interesting, though, is that business owners, especially perhaps small business owners, might be able to bring a case before the Supreme Court, demonstrating that the broadening definition of marriage might hurt their ability to remain competitive in their market, if there is a strong incentive to provide benefits for spouses. I'm not saying such a case is necessarily valid or not, but it would carry more weight than the moral one.

I'm no lawyer, and one could argue that businesses aren't obligated to pay benefits anyway. But, for example, when it comes to retirement benefits, this site says:


Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), employers are not required to offer employee benefits. If an employer chooses to provide benefits, it is generally free to define who is entitled to benefits under an employee benefit plan - employees, their dependents, spouse and other beneficiaries. Employers may elect to provide benefits to same-sex spouses or domestic partners, but they are not required to do so under ERISA.

...

Employers who limit benefits to opposite-sex couples still risk litigation in those jurisdictions that prohibit discrimination based on sexual preference (or arguably marital status), however. For example, there is concern that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD") will vigorously pursue complaints of discrimination relating to employee benefits, notwithstanding ERISA preemption. An employer may not be able to prevail on the preemption issue without first undergoing a potentially lengthy investigation and adjudication by MCAD.


So, if a business in Massachussetts could demonstrate injury, in terms of increased expenses due to providing benefits to same-sex spouses and the possible threat of expenses through litigation brought about by not providing them, they might have a case.

Personally, I'd like to see the legal definition of spouse erased from the books, but it will be interesting to see how all this plays out.


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