SHRINKING COVERAGE

The Days Of Domestic Partnership Benefits Could Be Numbered

domestic partnershipNot that long ago, domestic partnership benefits were a key measure of gay rights advancement. It was less than six years ago that Washington state became the first in the nation to have voters approve such benefits for state citizens.

Now, domestic partnership benefits could be heading for the graveyard.

With the Supreme Court ruling last Friday, a big chunk of the justification for domestic partnership benefits vanished. The benefits for same-sex couples depended upon a separate-but-equal argument to avoid full marriage benefits. Now that marriage is available nationwide, that reasoning no longer applies.

Statewide domestic partnership registers are completely gone. What’s at stake now is employee coverage.

A number of large employers have been moving away from domestic partnership benefits. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Verizon, IBM and Delta Airlines, among others, had already stopped offering domestic partnership benefits in states that had marriage equality. Their ultimatum to employees: if you want benefits for your partner, marry him or her.

“With no legal barriers to same-sex marriage, it is likely some employers will eliminate their benefits for unmarried same-sex partners,” Todd Solomon, who has written a book on domestic partner benefits, told The New York Times.

It’s as much a practical consideration as a political one. HR departments would rather have a simplified system for employee benefits. Domestic partnership benefits are more complex to administer, because they are subject to additional tax requirements.

The Human Rights Campaign is urging companies to maintain the benefits.

“If an L.G.B.T. employee is, in effect, ‘outed’ by being required to obtain a public marriage license in a state that doesn’t provide explicit nondiscrimination protections, it could place that employee and their family at risk of being denied credit, housing and public accommodation,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, told The Times.

The cost of domestic partnership benefits is pretty miniscule–about 1% of a company’s health care plan.  But as employers squeeze every dime they can, domestic partnership benefits could be an easy target.

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34 Comments

  • James Hart

    Domestic partnerships are a relic of the past. Now, guys if you’re really serious about gay marriage, and all the benefits related to marriage, then get married. If not, forego your benefits. You can’t have it both ways. Now put up or shut up. And by the way, I think you’re going to have to at least pretend to your straight friends and family that you and your spouse are truly monogamous, or your straight friends and family will think gay marriage is nothing but a fraud. I have a friend in a “monogamish” marriage and his mother found out and said that she would have never supported gay marriage if this is what gays believed about marriage. I think a lot of other supporters of gay marriage are also going to feel as though they’ve been tricked into thinking gay marriage is EXACTLY like straight marriage, just like Justice Kennedy also believes. GOOD LUCK, BOYS AND GIRLS. You’ve got lots of explaining to do!

  • Chris

    We’ll see what happens the next time open enrollment comes around, but I think that companies will either (a) make domestic partner benefits available to straight couples or (b) get rid of them entirely and offer “partner benefits” just to married couples.

    I know quite a few straight couples who do not want to get married (for tax purposes) but have been denied DP benefits by their companies. When they’ve asked why such benefits are made available to gay couples, the response has always been “because gay couples can’t get married.” Well, now that we can get married, my friends will sue for DP benefits if they’re not made available.

    Lawyers, on your mark…..

  • DarkZephyr

    @James Hart: I don’t have shit to explain. I am in a truly monogamous relationship and NOT all straight married people are. Keep your douche baggy homophobic stereotypes to yourself.

    @Chris: I would imagine that they will make Domestic Partner benefits unavailable. That is the only thing that makes sense. Why would lawyers be needed?

  • MarionPaige

    “If an L.G.B.T. employee is, in effect, ‘outed’ by being required to obtain a public marriage license”

    “being outed by gay marriage” would definitely not have been said before Friday’s Supreme Court decision, EXCEPT BY ME. It’s like now the gay marriage smoke screen is dissipating and the reality of what gay marriage really means is revealed. However,

    1. State DP Registries were public (at least CA’s is).
    2. Since some DP Registries were open to straight couples, gay marriage shouldn’t change anything.

  • Mykaels

    @James Hart: I do agree with you that if you want spousal benefits, get married. I am glad domestic partnership benefits are going to go away.

    As for monogamy, that’s a conversation between the two people involved in the marriage. You are clearly under the false impression that only gays are in open non monogamous marriages. I have often said I think people would be shocked by how prevalent monogamy is in gay couples and how prevalent open arrangements are in straight couples. Gays are a lot more boring and straights a lot more wild than most people realize.

  • MarionPaige

    the last respected survey I know of (i.e. The book The Male Couple) claimed that in all male couplings lasting longer than 5 years, the parties has open relationships. So, yeah, the world would be surprised at how many male couplings are monogamous.

  • MacAdvisor

    “Statewide domestic partnership registers are completely gone.”

    No, they are not. While the benefits they provide may be more limited, they still exist.

  • MarionPaige

    I wager that the book The Male Couple is about to become the most cited book of 2015. And, what will be the response to the “accusation” that married gay couples are not monogamous? I mean, if they’ve been together more than 5 years there is very little likelihood that they are monogamous

  • Joseph C Landis-Midnight

    Ugh, now we have to actually get married. This was a kinda nice fringe benefit.

  • Glücklich

    @MarionPaige:
    So what? If it bothers you, don’t participate in an open relationship. Why do you care what consenting adults are doing with each other in their bedrooms?

  • srslycris

    @MarionPaige: That book is from 1985 and it’s easily argued that ANY relationship lasting longer than 5 years is likely non-monogamous (even if one of the partners isn’t aware of it).

    Each relationship is different and has it’s own rules. Non-straight couples are no more or less likely to “cheat” and may only be more likely to be open about their non-monogamy.

  • Bellamy

    FIRST OF ALL… domestic partnership was/is NOT just for gay people – it is for EVERYONE, like myself, who has circumstances that prevent access to full marriage in order to acknowledge a civil union.
    Like MILLIONS of other Americas – gay and straight – if I marry my domestic partner I will lose my insurance coverage. I have multiple tumors of a form of cancer, called GastoIntestinal Stromal Tumor (“G.I.S.T.”), which requires a DAILY chemotherapy pill, called Gleevec. I must take this medication every single daily for the rest of my life, because there is no cure for this cancer, and Gleevec stops the tumors from growing and killing me. The cost for this medication is $10,000 a months. That’s right, TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS a month. They only way I can pay for it is through my insurance tax credits. Due to my Partner’s higher income, if we were to marry I would lose ALL of my tax credits and we would never be able to pay for the Gleevec and I would die. Without my legal Domestic Partnership, the relationship between my Partner and I would have ZERO recognition by my county government (and NO, having a lawyer write up Power of Attorney papers for the two of us IS NOT legally sufficient for myriad situations, including recognition by my Partner’s condo association).
    KILLING DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS KILLS!!!!

  • Bellamy

    FIRST OF ALL… domestic partnership was/is NOT just for gay people – it is for EVERYONE, like myself, who has circumstances that prevent access to full marriage in order to acknowledge a civil union.
    Like MILLIONS of other Americas – gay and straight – if I marry my Partner I will lose my insurance coverage. I have multiple tumors of a form of cancer, called GastoIntestinal Stromal Tumor (“G.I.S.T.”), which requires a DAILY chemotherapy pill, called Gleevec. I must take this medication every single day for the rest of my life because there is no cure for this cancer, and Gleevec stops the tumors from growing and killing me. The cost for this medication is $10,000 a month. That’s right, TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS a month. They only way I can pay for it is through my insurance tax credits. Due to my Partner’s higher income, if we were to marry I would lose ALL of my tax credits and we would never be able to pay for the Gleevec and I would die. I am only 45 years old. I don’t want to die. Without my legal Domestic Partnership, the relationship between my Partner and I would have ZERO recognition by my county government (and NO, having a lawyer write up Power of Attorney papers for the two of us, which we already did, IS NOT legally sufficient for myriad situations, including recognition by my Partner’s condo association for example).
    KILLING DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS KILLS LIVES!!!!

  • Bellamy

    @James Hart:
    JAMES HART… you are EXTREMELY ignorant and pompous.

    FIRST OF ALL… domestic partnership was/is NOT just for gay people – it is for EVERYONE, like myself, who has circumstances that prevent access to full marriage in order to acknowledge a civil union.
    Like MILLIONS of other Americas – gay and straight – if I marry my Partner I will lose my insurance coverage. I have multiple tumors of a form of cancer, called GastoIntestinal Stromal Tumor (“G.I.S.T.”), which requires a DAILY chemotherapy pill, called Gleevec. I must take this medication every single day for the rest of my life because there is no cure for this cancer, and Gleevec stops the tumors from growing and killing me. The cost for this medication is $10,000 a month. That’s right, TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS a month. The only way I can pay for it is through my insurance tax credits. Due to my Partner’s higher income, if we were to marry I would lose ALL of my tax credits and we would never be able to pay for the Gleevec and I would die. I am only 45 years old. I don’t want to die. Without my legal Domestic Partnership, the relationship between my Partner and I would have ZERO recognition by my county government (and NO, having a lawyer write up Power of Attorney papers for the two of us, which we already did, IS NOT legally sufficient for myriad situations, including recognition by my Partner’s condo association for example).
    KILLING DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS KILLS LIVES!!!!

  • Bellamy

    @DarkZephyr:
    DARKZEPHYR SAID, “I would imagine that they will make Domestic Partner benefits unavailable. That is the only thing that makes sense”.

    It makes ZERO sense, and that’s why no one has the power to vote on Rights – rights come by birth, not people’s ignorant and biased opinion.

    FIRST OF ALL… domestic partnership was/is NOT just for gay people – it is for EVERYONE, like myself, who has circumstances that prevent access to full marriage in order to acknowledge a civil union.
    Like MILLIONS of other Americas – gay and straight – if I marry my Partner I will lose my insurance coverage. I have multiple tumors of a form of cancer, called GastoIntestinal Stromal Tumor (“G.I.S.T.”), which requires a DAILY chemotherapy pill, called Gleevec. I must take this medication every single day for the rest of my life because there is no cure for this cancer, and Gleevec stops the tumors from growing and killing me. The cost for this medication is $10,000 a month. That’s right, TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS a month. The only way I can pay for it is through my insurance tax credits. Due to my Partner’s higher income, if we were to marry I would lose ALL of my tax credits and we would never be able to pay for the Gleevec and I would die. I am only 45 years old. I don’t want to die. Without my legal Domestic Partnership, the relationship between my Partner and I would have ZERO recognition by my county government (and NO, having a lawyer write up Power of Attorney papers for the two of us, which we already did, IS NOT legally sufficient for myriad situations, including recognition by my Partner’s condo association for example).
    KILLING DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS KILLS LIVES!!!!

  • Bellamy

    @srslycris:
    SRSLYCRIS SAID, “It’s easily argued that ANY relationship lasting longer than 5 years is likely non-monogamous (even if one of the partners isn’t aware of it).”

    Just because YOU’RE a whore doesn’t give you the right to impugn the majority of us who actually love their mates and are faithful to them and wouldn’t dream of sharing themselves with someone else. the word “marriage” means “to join two things together”. Joining with anyone else is a violation of that marriage and makes you no more than filthy dog.

  • mc4bbs

    Cheating on your lover (husband) is even more exciting when you’re in a monogamous relationship! Trust me, married or not, men will play around — even if they deny they do. It’s in their nature.

  • Bellamy

    @mc4bbs:
    That’s disgusting, and you’re disgusting. I’m a man and I am an HONEST man, which is why I don’t cheat. And I believe that adulterers should be punished.

  • Designermax

    @James Hart: I’m not sure how old you are, but I rub elbows all the time in my line of work, with Millennials all the time. I am Generation X. What I have been observing through conversations I have, and have participated in. The unilateral agreement of everyone being monogamous is fading away rapidly. Especially in what I’m seeing in attitudes from Millennials. Open relationships happen far more frequently throughout both gay and straight spectrums. I’m finding that the whole thing as Dan Savage so put, ‘Monogamish’ in my experience anywhere is becoming the new normal!

    My experience, and what I’ve witnessed first hand from both straight and gay camps open relationships are becoming a new normal!

  • Chris

    @DarkZephyr: To sue if DP benefits remain available only to gay couples — as was suggested might happen in the article.

  • Bellamy

    Marriage is a PUBLIC LEGAL CONTRACT, not a private one.

  • Chris

    @Bellamy: Though there is huge variation in the benefits that are made available to domestic partners, by states and by companies, I can see that you’re talking to an attorney to make sure you know your choices and make the best one.

    I wish you the best as this issue become better settled. No one should have to chose between his health and love.

  • Bellamy

    @Chris:
    Thank you Chris. That was very kind. There’s very little kindness nowadays.

  • Dymension

    So weird…I went to the Human Rights Campaign web page and found no evidence of a position on the matter.

    Furthermore, the claim attributed to Sarah Warbelow that LGBT would be ‘outed’ “by being required to obtain a public marriage license in a state that doesn’t provide explicit nondiscrimination protections” seems pretty bogus since you would be ‘outed’ anyway by declaring yourself in a domestic partnership. No?

  • DCFarmboi

    @Bellamy: You are getting bad legal advice. DP coverage is not essential to your situation.

  • ladysky61

    @Bellamy:

    HiI I am not an insurance expert, but I think you are getting bad advice about your situation. I used to do case management and still like to help people with insurance problems, if I can. I would seek out the hospital case manager or patient organizations for advice. Talk to billing people at the hospital/practice as well. They may be able to give you more help then a lawyer who doesn’t know the ins and outs of health insurance.

    First, is group insurance an option? Does your higher income spouse have access to a group plan through work? If you get married, you would qualify for that. If for some reason, the insurance doesn’t cover that medication, your doctor or other necessary care you still have the option to use Obamacare, but you’ll most likely have to pay the full premium. Look at what it covers before signing up, all insurance companies have doctor/facility databases and formularties listing what drugs they cover, usually on the website.

    If you are buying health insurance throughout healthcare.gov, aka Obamacare, you can continue to use the plan even if your household income substantially increases due to marriage. However, you will most likely have to pay a higher premium. If you aren’t buying through healthcare.gov, I suggest you look into it. Just make sure whatever plan you sign-up for will cover your medication (see above). Since you mentioned Tax credits, I am assuming you are referring to Obamacare insurance. If you lost all or some of your tax credits, the amount of the premiums that you pay will increase, but still shouldn’t amount to greater then 15% of our household income. You can update your income and marriage status through the website.

    If Obamacare isn’t an option (or even if it is), I would look into getting Disability. If you were to obtain SSI Disability, you will automatically receive Medicare after 24 months. See: http://www.medicare.gov/people-like-me/disability/disability.html

    The only situation I can foresee is if you have Medicaid coverage, which you cannot obtain if your household makes over a certain amount. However, I am guessing you don’t have Medicaid if you using tax credits, since Medicaid is generally covered by the government (some states are requiring people to pay small premiums however). If you and your partner together make less then 125% of the federal poverty line (about 20k) and you live in a state that expanded Medicaid (Almost all the blue states and a few red ones), Medicaid may be an option.

    If you end up obtaining another insurance plan and they won’t cover the medication (or its too expensive), or you found yourself uninsured look at Novatis patient assistance program: http://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/info/patient-assistance/patient-assistance-now.jsp

    Insurance is complicated, but shouldn’t a deal breaker.

    If all else fails, ask your spouse to look for jobs in Canada.

  • ladysky61

    Oh and I forgot to mention, if you do qualify for group insurance through marriage (and it’s does not cost more than 15% of your income), you also can’t use tax credits, so you would pay the full premium. BUT I would call the people at Healthcare.gov to get more specific information. They may make exceptions if the group plan won’t cover the medication your need (it looks like most plans do cover it though).

    Although the insurance may cost more, you will likely get taxes benefits from joint filing that may offset the extra cost.

  • notevenwrong

    @James Hart, in a lot of states gay people can be fired for being married to a same sex partner, so maybe check your privilege a little bit.

    As for domestic partnerships and common law marriages, even many straight people prefer them over traditional marriage and the baggage that comes with that. Benefits should be available regardless.

  • notevenwrong

    @Designermax, neither the Millennials nor Generation X (I am gen X like you) can claim credit for the sexual revolution, which happened in the 60s for straight people and the 70s for gay people. By the way, the tail end of the gay boomers in the 70s were substantially more sexually liberal than (my impression of) the Millennials.

  • LiamCregg

    Most if not all corporations that offer domestic partner benefits provide them only to couples who cannot legally marry. That’s why these benefits were instituted and there are str8 couples who do not choose to marry who cannot get these benefits. Fair? I think not. We wanted equality, we got it. Like someone above wrote; you can’t have it both ways.

  • Pete

    Hmmm . . . be careful about what you wish for . . .

    I never got on the marriage bandwagon, because for me the bigger issue is legal standing of marriage itself.

    Marriage is a religious rite to which our secular state (inappropriately) affords the status of contract. Just think about it: you may be married by a minister, Iman, rabbi, priest, shaman, whatever, but if you get divorced, i.e. dissolve the contract, it goes before a judge.

    Domestic Partnership should be the binding agreement between all couples, straight or gay. This is the case in much of Europe, and it should be the case here in the land that first established the separation of church and state.

  • Rob Moore

    No, it isn’t. There are a lot of straight couples who use them, too. In fact, I am sitting across from a man who has been with his female partner for decades. They never married. They are registered as domestic partners.

Comments are closed.