United States

CFPB clarifies policy on treatment of same sex married couples


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) has clarified its policies regarding equal treatment of same sex married couples. In a June 25, 2014, memorandum to staff, Director Richard Cordray explained the policy of the Bureau with respect to how it will recognize same sex married couples. The CFPB"s policy will be to recognize all marriages, whether same sex or opposite sex, that are valid in the state in which it took place. For the purpose of enforcing the federal laws and regulations under its jurisdiction, the CFPB will recognize a person who is married in one state to be married nationwide, regardless of where that person lives.

The guidance comes in response to the 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675) to declare as unconstitutional section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act which states that the word "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman and which by definition would disallow federal recognition of legally married couples of the same sex.

The guidance affects all statutes, regulations and policies enforced or administered by the CFPB. Among the major laws to which it would apply are:

  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Regulation B
  • Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
  • Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act and Regulation J
  • Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z
  • Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and Regulation X
  • Bureau of Ethics Regulations
  • Procedures for Bureau Debt Collection

The memorandum further states that persons joined by a domestic partnership, civil union or other relationship not classified by law as a marriage will not be regarded as married by the CFPB. This is consistent with the position of other federal agencies on this issue. Lastly, the Bureau will adopt a gender-neutral approach in its use and interpretation of words such as spouse, marriage, husband and wife; i.e., the terms will apply to either same-sex or opposite-sex marriages.