The board that administers the Thrift Savings Plan is changing its rules on spousal rights to include gay federal employees wed in states recognizing same-sex marriages.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board will determine a TSP enrollee’s marital status based on where the marriage took place or the “jurisdiction of celebration” to ensure same-sex marriages are included for benefits purposes. The interim final rule takes effect on Friday.
The Supreme Court in June declared unconstitutional Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The ruling has led agencies including the FRTIB and the Office of Personnel Management to revise regulations on benefits.
While the high court required the TSP board to defer to state law in determining the marital status of TSP participants, the current language in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations directs the TSP board to use the laws in the enrollee’s state of residence to determine marital status for the purposes of distributing death benefits. Conflicting state laws will hinder the board’s ability to administer the TSP “solely in the interest of its participants and beneficiaries,” according to the notice in the Federal Register, since many states still do not recognize same-sex marriage.
That’s why the TSP board has decided to revise the rule to use the “jurisdiction of celebration” criterion. “The current choice-of-law is detrimental to a population of TSP participants and does not serve to defray expenses of administering the Thrift Savings Fund,” the interim rule said.
The board will accept comments on the interim final rule until Oct. 20.