Today the U.S. Department of Labor released results of the National Compensation Survey which basically goes over how many Americans get paid vacation, sick leave, medical insurance and other job benefits. Most of the report focused on individual employees and married breeders, but one section mentioned that state and local government offer more “unmarried domestic partner benefits” than private employers do. Seeing as it’s the first time in history that the U.S. Department of Labor has ever bothered collecting stats on such benefits, it’s kind of a big deal.
Does this mean that gay government employees and their longtime roommates should start planning paid vacations to Maui? Not exactly…
Here’s what the report actually said:
For unmarried domestic partner benefits, about half the workers in state and local government have access to survivor benefits, as compared to 7 percent of the workers in private industry, reflecting in part the difference in the availability of defined benefit plans between these groups. Thirty-three percent of state and local government workers and 29 percent of private sector workers have access to health care benefits for unmarried domestic partners of the same sex. Access to benefits varies by employer and employee characteristics and by whether the unmarried domestic partner is of the same or opposite sex.
Keep in mind, “domestic partners” doesn’t only refer to gay couples who have lived together for a long time or ones that can’t legally marry in their state; it also refers to heterosexuals who are not legally entitled to “common-law marriage.” Seeing as each state has its own domestic partner and common-law marriage laws, it can all get quite confusing.
Nevertheless, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force gave props to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis by saying, “With each effort to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in surveys like this, the Department of Labor moves us closer to being able to better serve the community. Data collection is fundamental to addressing the disparities in employment, health, education and income facing our community. We thank Secretary Solis for taking this step in the right direction.”
You’re damned right we do.
Image via Zazzle