Notice of NIH Requirement for Federal Recognition of Same-Sex Spouses/Marriages by Grant and Research and Development Contract Recipients

Notice Number: NOT-OD-15-051

Key Dates
Release Date: January 8, 2015

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)


In United States v. Windsor (June 26, 2013), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), finding the prohibition on federal recognition of legally authorized, same-sex marriages and spouses unconstitutional. In light of this ruling, all NIH grant programs and research and development (R&D) contract programs now interpret the terms "spouse" and marriage to include same-sex spouses/marriages. Under this policy, a same-sex relationship between two individuals is recognized as a marriage if (1) the state or other jurisdiction, whether foreign or domestic, where the couple was married recognizes the marriage under its laws or (2) the state or other jurisdiction where the couple currently resides recognizes the relationship as a legally valid marriage.


Marital/spousal considerations arise in the context of NIH grant programs and R&D contract programs, and the NIH grants and R&D contracts communities are expected to interpret the terms "spouse" and "marriage" as including legally-recognized, same-sex spouses/marriages, consistent with this policy. Marital or spousal considerations are relevant to the NIH grants and R&D contracts communities in the collection of financial conflicts of interest (COI) information. For example:

Under 42 C.F.R. Part 50, Subpart F, Promoting Objectivity in Research, applicants for, or recipients of, Public Health Service (including NIH) research funding must maintain a policy on financial COI. Among other responsibilities, grantee institutions must require each of its investigators who is planning to participate in such research to disclose significant financial interests of the investigator’s "spouse."

Likewise, in the companion regulation applicable to contracts and contract proposals, 45 C.F.R. Part 94, Responsible Prospective Contractors, for research performed under contract with the Public Health Service (including NIH), significant financial interests of the investigator and his/her "spouse" must be disclosed.

Under 42 C.F.R. Part 52h, Scientific Peer Review of Research Grant Applications and Research and Development Contract Projects, members of a scientific peer review group reviewing grant applications to, or R&D contract projects of, NIH must recuse themselves if their "close relative" has a COI. "Close relative" is defined to include "spouse."


Please direct all inquiries to:

Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration
Telephone: 301-435-0949

Office of Acquisition Management and Policy
Telephone: 301-496-4425