Lieberman: Senate Vote On Gay Partner Benefits ‘Within Weeks’

May 20, 2010

by Carlos Santoscoy | On Top Magazine

Aides to Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, told the Washington Post Wednesday that the Senate could vote on a bill that would extend some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees “within weeks.”

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State and National Civil Rights Groups Laud Maryland For Providing State Employee Benefits To Married Same-Sex Couples

May 19, 2010

Heartened that the State of Maryland has taken an important step forward for the rights of all families, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Equality Maryland, the Maryland Black Family Alliance, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights today lauded the state Department of Budget and Management for its decision to make the Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program inclusive of same-sex couples who have valid marriages that were performed in other states. Beginning July 1, the program will now cover individuals who already possess a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that authorizes marriages of same-sex couples.

“We applaud the State of Maryland for providing basic protections to its married lesbian and gay employees, in compliance with Maryland law , allowing them to offer their spouses and children greater security, stability and peace of mind,” said David Rocah, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland.

“This is fully consistent with longstanding Maryland legal principles and helps same-sex couples access important protections for their families,” said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal.

“This is a common-sense step toward equal treatment of Maryland State employees and their families,” said Liz Seaton, a managing attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“The Maryland Black Family Alliance believes it is the right step forward for the state to be inclusive of married same-sex couples in providing important family benefits,” said Elbridge James, Director of the Maryland Black Family Alliance, adding, “It’s the right thing to do.”

“We are thrilled that so many couples are benefiting from equal treatment under the law in a wide range of areas including health insurance,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland. “Progress is being made, however, many of the 400+ state-level legal protections of marriage still remain out of reach to thousands of committed couples. Only civil marriage here at home and an end to discrimination by the federal government will provide full and equal protection under the law,” said Meneses-Sheets.

To qualify for coverage, the couples have to submit a copy of their marriage certificate along with a newly developed Spouse Tax Affidavit which, going forward, will apply to all spouses, not just same-sex spouses. Same-sex spouses with a valid marriage certificate will not be required to complete the separate Domestic Partner Affidavit nor will they be required to submit proof of common residence and financial interdependency.

An initial open enrollment period is provided through June 2 for same-sex couples who are already married. After that, same-sex partners who get legally married can add the spouse under the state’s usual qualified family status change process. Unfortunately, due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples will have to pay taxes on the value of health benefits provided under the Program, unlike opposite-sex couples for whom such benefits are exempt from taxation.

The ACLU of Maryland, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal continue to monitor how state agencies comply with the law following a legal opinion released in February by Attorney General Doug Gansler that concludes that Maryland law requires recognition of valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. Last year, Maryland extended benefits to domestic partners who complete a Domestic Partner affidavit. This new policy for married same-sex couples does not affect the availability of benefits for eligible domestic partners.

Maryland follows New York State, which honors marriages between same-sex couples even though such marriages are not performed in that jurisdiction. Five states Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire and the District of Columbia have marriage equality laws.

Gay Couples Sue California Pension Fund over Insurance

April 14, 2010

from the Associated Press

Three gay couples are suing California’s giant public pension fund and the Internal Revenue Service to make long-term care insurance available to the same-sex spouses of state government workers.

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Sen. Boxer Introduces COBRA Benefits Bill for Domestic Partners

March 26, 2010

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday introduced the Equal Access to COBRA Act, which would allow many domestic partners the same access married spouses currently have to COBRA health coverage if their partner loses a job.

The law would apply to companies that already offer health coverage to domestic partners and their children. Currently, more than half of Fortune 500 companies cover domestic partners under their health plans.

Senator Boxer said, “This is a question of fairness: Every family deserves access to health insurance, especially in this tough economy. This bill ensures that domestic partners and their families will have equal access to health coverage after a job loss.

Under federal law, employers must offer continuing health care coverage to departing employees and their beneficiaries for up to 36 months. Current federal laws related to COBRA coverage do not apply to domestic partners or same-sex spouses – even at companies that offer health coverage to domestic partners of employees.

This legislation would change federal law to allow equal access to COBRA coverage for all individuals who are covered by an employer’s health plan. It would apply to domestic partners as they are defined by an employer’s health insurance plan.

Would Partners of Gay Troops Get Benefits, Too?

March 26, 2010

by Kimberly Hefling | Associated Press

If gay service members are allowed to serve openly, the military will face another tough question: Should gay partners be entitled to military benefits?

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Federal Agency Denies Spousal Benefits Claim

December 18, 2009

by Kerry Eleveld | The Advocate

The Office of Personnel Management has concluded that it does not have the legal authority to provide benefits to the spouse of Karen Golinski, a staff attorney who works at the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit in San Francisco.

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Kaine Plans to Extend Health Benefits to Same-Sex Partners

December 7, 2009

by Anita Kumar | Washington Post

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has directed his staff to begin putting into effect a proposal that would allow same-sex partners to be covered under the state’s employee health plan.

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Benefits for Same-Sex Partners are Expanding

November 30, 2009

by Ashley Surdin | Washington Post

With public attention focused largely on battles over whether gay couples should be able to marry, a less-noticed movement to grant health and other benefits to same-sex partners is gaining significant ground across the country in courtrooms, in legislatures and at the ballot box.

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California Judge Challenging Obama on Gay Rights

November 30, 2009

by Michael A. Lindenberger | TIME Magazine

Obama Administration lawyers are likely still scratching their heads over how to respond to an extraordinary ruling in San Francisco. Last week, the chief judge of one of America’s most prominent federal courts ordered an Executive Branch agency to stop interfering with a court employee’s efforts to secure health insurance coverage for her wife.

“The Office of Personnel Management shall cease at once its interference with the jurisdiction of this tribunal,” wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He gave the Administration 30 days to permit Karen Golinski, a lawyer employed by the Ninth Circuit, to include the woman she married under California law last year on her family health-insurance plan. “Some branch must have the final say on a law’s meaning. At least as to laws governing judicial employees, that is entirely our duty and our province. We would not be a co-equal branch of government otherwise.

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Alabama Legislator Seeks to Block Same-Sex Benefits

November 17, 2009

from the Associated Press

An Alabama legislator is picking up support for his bill to stop the state’s public universities from offering employee benefits to same-sex couples.

Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, said he has prepared a bill for the legislative session beginning in January. The bill would prohibit public universities from receiving state funds if they offer benefits to same-sex partners.

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