Impact of Obergefell v. Hodges Decision on Kentucky Cities

Impact of Obergefell v. Hodges Decision on Kentucky Cities

On Friday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  So what does that mean for city governments in Kentucky? 

The decision reaffirms the February 25, 2015 Department of Labor Final Rule revising the regulatory definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).  This amendment to the rule provided that same sex-spouses must be treated the same as opposite-sex spouses under the Family Medical Leave Act.  For example, the DOL Final Rule and the Supreme Court ruling will allow eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for their same-sex spouse with a serious health condition and to take qualifying exigency leave if a same-sex spouse is being deployed for military duty. 

Therefore, cities that are required to provide FMLA to eligible employees (i.e., those cities with 50 or more employees) need to make sure their FMLA policies conform to this change and that administrative staff are properly trained to properly apply the policy.    . 

Other impacts based on this decision include the following:

Obergefell is not an employment law case and does not directly implicate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  While the Civil Rights Act does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, gender stereotyping, harassment, and the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals may still give rise to a gender discrimination claim under Title VII. In addition, this decision will not impact “Fairness” ordinances that some cities have adopted that provide additional protections for LGBT individuals against discrimination, such as in housing practices and employment decisions.


For additional information or questions on the Obergefell decision or for sample policies, contact Andrea Shindlebower, Personnel Services Specialist with the KLC Member Legal Services Department.