TSP to begin recognizing same-sex marriages

The retirement savings program for federal employees is changing its policies on spousal rights to include same-sex marriages performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes such marriages.

Under a Thrift Savings Plan interim rule effective tomorrow, the TSP will use a “jurisdiction of celebration” standard in determining who qualifies as a spouse, regardless of the policies in the couple’s current place of residence.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The TSP reviewed its spousal rights policies in light of the June U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage for federal benefits purposes as only between a man and a woman.

TSP spokeswoman Kim Weaver said the revision mirrors changes by other agencies following the DOMA decision that look to the policies of the jurisdiction where a marriage occurred. Those include Office of Personnel Management eligibility rules for federal employee health insurance family coverage and retirement survivor benefits.

Under the new TSP policy, “if you’re married where it was recognized, then you’re married,” she said.

In the 401(k)-style TSP, certain loan and withdrawal decisions require the consent of a spouse, and on the death of an account holder, the funds automatically go to a spouse if the investor did not designate a different beneficiary.

Separately, the TSP will propose for comment a rule under which it would not honor a beneficiary designation that was signed more than a year before it reached the TSP.

Weaver said the change is needed because some agencies still are holding designation forms that predate the late 1990s when the TSP started requiring that such forms be filed with itself, not with the employing agency. The TSP must honor a designation even if the account holder’s wishes may have changed since it was filed.

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Josh Hicks · September 19, 2013