On Thursday the National School Boards Association (NSBA), in conjunction with the National Education Association (NEA) and the School Superintendents Association (AASA), released its guide on the impact the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage will have on local school districts across the nation.
“As the nation’s largest collective employer with over 6.9 million employees, the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is a landmark decision that will impact school district employment policies and practices,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA executive director. “Through our legal advocacy experts and case analysis, NSBA offers state-of-the-art resources to help guide school districts on appropriate implementation of the law.”
“NEA is pleased to partner with the National School Board Association to provide guidance and resources on this important issue,” stated Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of NEA, the nation’s largest teacher’s union. “On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, and we are grateful that all of our educators, regardless of whom they are married to, will be assured personal and economic well-being.”
The NSBA, which states its mission is to “advocate for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership,” asserts that in the wake of the high court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the nation, “Lawfully married same-sex spouses are now entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex partners.”
“This is consistent with the position taken by the Obama administration, as announced by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who stated that federal marriage benefits will be available to same-sex couples nationwide, beginning with social security and veterans benefits,” the guide says.
According to NSBA, health insurance, retirement, and leave of absence benefits, as well as collective bargaining agreements, health savings accounts, dependent childcare, and COBRA benefits are among the major areas affected by the ruling.
All local school districts in the United States “must now provide the same benefits to same-sex spouses as they provide to opposite-sex spouses,” the guide states.
Additionally, NSBA recommends that school districts no longer use the terms “husband” or “wife” to describe married persons.
“It is advisable to refer simply to ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse,’” the guide says. “There is no distinction under the law between same-sex and opposite-sex spouses.”
NSBA recommends local school districts consult with an attorney from the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) and other tax counsel to determine the implications of the same-sex marriage ruling on employee benefits and taxes.
“School superintendents are aware of their responsibility to ensure that employee policies and benefits apply equally to all employees, including individuals in same-sex marriages,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director. “Identifying potential questions that may arise from school districts’ efforts to comply with the provisions, and offering answers to these questions is a timely and important service that our organizations needed to provide.”