Supreme Court Finds Constitutional Right for Same Sex Marriage

The United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that a state does not have the right to ban gay marriage. This, in essence, means that Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage, passed in 2000, no longer is the law. The holding of the case, Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, Et Al., 576 U. S. ____ (2015) “requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.”

Central to the decision, the Supreme Court focused on the Fourteenth Amendment  due process clause and equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. Citing a long history of precedent protecting the right to marry, the Court proceeded to elaborate with four reasons on why the protection extends to same sex couples. First, the Court noted the right of personal choice is central and inherent to marriage. Second, the right to marry supports the union between two people and is therefore of the utmost importance. Third, marriage provides protection and safety for families, including children. Fourth, marriage is so set in the nations’ traditions that it must be recognized.  The Court found that the states supporting the gay marriage bans were unable to put forth a compelling reason to withhold a same sex couple’s right to marry.

In Nebraska, exactly when and how this will impact the ability for same sex individuals to marry remains unclear. County clerks have stated they will be seeking guidance from the Nebraska attorney general, as the specific case that will change the Nebraska law is still pending in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, in the short term, this may not necessarily stop county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same sex individuals in Nebraska. Regardless of whether issuance of same sex marriage licenses begin within hours or weeks, it is now clear that banning same sex marriage is unconstitutional as determined by the Court.

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Supreme Court Upholds Individual Mandate

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of PPACA in a 5-4 ruling issued today.  The Supreme Court determined the individual insurance mandate was not unconstitutional under the Tax Clause of the Constitution.

A key provision of PPACA was deemed unconstitutional.  Under the Act as originally drafted, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would have had the power to withdraw all Medicaid payments from any state that failed to comply with the expanded Medicaid requirements under the Act.  The Supreme Court held that this provision is unconstitutional.  As a result, the Secretary of Health and Human Services may only withhold funds disbursed under PPACA if a state chooses to participate in the program and fails to comply with its provisions.

The Supreme Court’s ruling underscores the importance of planning for the implementation of PPACA.  Several key provisions of the Act take effect in 2013.  These provisions include Medicare tax increases for individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and married persons filing jointly  earning more than $250,000 per year.  The Act also imposes a $2,500 cap on employee health flexible spending account contributions.  Beginning in 2013, employers will no longer be eligible to take a deduction for providing retiree prescription drug coverage.

Additionally, the comparative effectiveness research fee for employers sponsoring group health plans will increase in 2013.  Employers were previously required to pay a $1 fee for each participant in a sponsored group health plan.  That fee will now double in 2013, and will afterward be indexed to national health expenditures.  Employers will also be subject to additional notification requirements regarding exchange programs.  For example, employers in participating states will be required to provide employees with information about options they may have if the employer’s coverage is not affordable. In light of the major effects that PPACA will have on group health plans and other related policies, it is crucial for employers to review these plans and policies to make sure that they comply with PPACA provisions coming into force in 2013.

Stay tuned for future blogs and articles about the PPACA once the entire opinion can be digested…

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