Agreeing with an earlier pronouncement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidance that, for purposes of benefit plan administration for same-sex spouses, the agency would recognize a "state of celebration" as the applicable standard.

In other words, even if the couple resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, the couple is still entitled to all the beneficiary and other rights of an opposite-sex couple because their union was celebrated in state or foreign country that does recognize same-sex unions.

Technical Release 2013-04, which puts forth the guidance, does not extend to unmarried same-sex couples and is not technically binding in states that do not recognize same-sex weddings, but the document raises significant administrative issues if the guidance is not followed:

A rule for employee benefit plans based on state of domicile would raise significant challenges for employers that operate or have employees (or former employees) in more than one state or whose employees move to another state while entitled to benefits. Furthermore, substantial financial and administrative burdens would be placed on those employers, as well as the administrators of employee benefit plans.