TSP board updates rules to recognize same-sex marriages

Friday - 9/20/2013, 6:51pm EDT

Updated Thrift Savings Plan regulations would allow the same-sex spouse of a TSP participant to collect death benefits as long as they were legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex unions — regardless of where they live currently.

The interim rule follows the Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even in states where such unions are legal.

The FRTIB, which manages federal employees' 401(k)-style TSP accounts, published an interim final rule in the Federal Register Friday. Comments on the rule are due by Oct. 21.

The board has followed the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Personnel Management in recognizing same-sex marriages as long as they were based on the "state of celebration" rather than the state of residency.

The court decision directed the federal government to defer to state law in determining eligibility for federal benefits. However, in its proposed regulation, the board stated it "anticipates conflicting state laws," such as a TSP participant marrying in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages and, subsequently, moving to a state that doesn't.

The board determined the current regulations, which use employees' state of residence to determine marriage, are "detrimental to the population of TSP participants."

In late June, OPM opened up enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan and other federal insurance programs to the same-sex spouses of federal employees using the same state-of-celebration standard.

The IRS, more recently, issued new rules allowing legally married gay couples to file joint federal tax returns even if they live in states that don't recognize same-sex marriages.

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