EEOICPA CIRCULAR NO.14-06             February 28, 2014

 

SUBJECT:  Qualifying as a “spouse” under EEOICPA following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor.

 

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Section 3 provided that, in any federal statute (such as EEOICPA), the term “marriage” meant a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and that the term “spouse” referred only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.  In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) is issuing this Circular to provide guidance to claims examiners on the meaning of the terms “marriage,” “spouse,” “husband,” “wife,” and any other term related to marital status as they appear in EEOICPA and the Program’s regulations and policies.

 

DEEOIC has always allowed survivors to prove the existence of an opposite-sex marriage by submitting a copy of a valid marriage certificate issued by the state of celebration.  Starting with former Chapter 2-200.4c(1) (June 2002) of the Federal (EEOICPA) Procedure Manual, which provided that “For a surviving spouse, documentation would consist of a copy of his/her marriage certificate,” this practice continues to the present day in current Chapter 2-1200.7 (August 2010), which states that “For either a Part B or Part E claim for spousal survivorship, the necessary documentation to establish a viable claim usually consists of a copy of the marriage certificate issued or recognized by a State Authority or an Indian Tribe Authority.”  This practice will now be applied to same-sex marriages in the same manner it has been applied to opposite-sex marriages. 

 

For the purposes of EEOICPA, its regulations at 20 C.F.R. Part 30 and its policies, the terms “spouse,” “husband,” and “wife” will be read to refer to any individual who is lawfully married under any state law, including an individual married to a person of the same sex who was legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, but who is now domiciled in a state that does not recognize such marriages.  The terms “married,” “marriage” and any other term related to marital status will be read to include a same-sex marriage valid in the state where it was celebrated.

 

For purposes of this guidance, the term “state” means any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Wake Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, any other territory or possession of the United States and any foreign jurisdiction having the legal authority to sanction marriages.  The terms “spouse,” “marriage,” and other terms related to marital status, however, do not include individuals in a formal relationship recognized by a state that is not called a “marriage” under state law, such as a domestic partnership or a civil union, even when the individuals who are in these relationships have the same rights and responsibilities as those individuals who are married under state law.  The foregoing sentence applies to individuals who are in these types of relationships with an individual of the opposite sex or same sex.  The terms “spouse,” “marriage,” and other terms related to marital status also do not include individuals in marriages celebrated outside the United States that are generally not recognized in the United States, such as bigamous or non-consensual marriages.

 

Pursuant to this Circular, DEEOIC will recognize marriages that are valid in the state in which they were celebrated, regardless of the couple’s current state of domicile.  There is no need for any change to DEEOIC’s procedures, because they are already focused on the “state of celebration” when a survivor alleges a ceremonial marriage.

 

 

 

 

RACHEL P. LEITON

Director, Division of Energy Employees

Occupational Illness Compensation

 

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