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Friday, June 26, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Is A Fundamental Right, High Court Rules

By: Tommy Eden

Today the High Court ruled in a highly watch 5-4 decision that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage under the 14th Amendment. State bans, like Alabama has, are therefore unconstitutional.

The court majority held that the equal protections granted by the 14th Amendment extend to the right to marry regardless of whether a marriage involves same-sex or opposite sex partners.

Common Sense Counsel: If you have not noticed, we are in the mist of a societal transition. By the end of 2015, 50% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials, those born after 1980, which are driving this issue. Surveys show that 56% of that age group is in favor of same-sex marriage. So you would be wise to consider taking the following steps:

1) Revise your FMLA policy to define "spouse" to  “include employees in a legal same-sex marriage”;
2) Determine what “celebration” documents will be necessary to establish spousal status;
3) Closely examine all handbook provisions to see if you wish to adopt one consistent definition of “spouse”, such as in your bereavement policy;
4) The other hot button issues worthy of throwing in the discussion is adding “sexual orientation and gender identification” in your EEO and Harassment policy to avoid a transgender EEOC charge; and
5) While you are tinkering with your handbook, give it an overhaul with new policies on social media, criminal background checks, solicitation and distribution, union avoidance, drug testing, military leave and workplace violence prevention.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at or 334-246-2901. Blog at and follow on twitter tommyeden3.