For the first time, the federal government will allow the same-sex partner of a federal worker to receive employer-sponsored health benefits.
Karen Golinski, a federal lawyer in California sued in federal district court to have the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) declared unconstitutional.
Golinski was seeking benefits for her wife, Amy Cunninghis, and her suit was successful. The district court ruled the DOMA was unconstitutional.
As a result, the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management is allowing Cunninghis to receive employer-sponsored health benefits.
The feds also made it clear that Cunninghis will be an exception, not the rule, when it comes to issuing same-sex benefits for federal workers.
But even though only Golinski and Cunninghis are benefiting from the legal battle now, one would assume the decision paves the way for others in the same position.
Republicans are appealing the ruling.
Bill to extend benefits gains more support
Soon after the court’s ruling, 20 senators signed on as co-sponsors for the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which seeks to extend federal healthcare, family and medical leave, and retirement benefits to domestic partners of federal workers.
The bill was introduced in November. In order for couples to receive benefits, the bill would require gay and lesbian employees to swear in an affidavit that they are in a committed same-sex domestic partnership, and that their partners are not related by blood and are at least 18 years old.
Senator Joseph Lieberman’s (I-CT) office said the bill would place the government in line with nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies and 50% of employers with 5,000 or more workers that offer benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners.
More businesses offering tax benefits
In other domestic partner benefits news, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a LGBT civil rights organization, just reported it has now found at least 35 businesses offering same-sex benefits that have agreed to pay the required tax on those benefits.
That’s nearly triple the 12 companies HRC found last year offering to do that.
Under federal tax law, employees are required to pay income taxes on the health and wellness benefits their same-sex partners receive. Heterosexual married couples do not have to pay the same tax.
But the HRC is reporting that more companies are “grossing up” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees’ salaries to cover the income tax.
The employers reportedly paying for the tax include:
- American Express
- Bank of America
- Cisco Systems
- PricewaterhouseCoopers, and