Uncle Sam Gives More Of A Crap About Gay Spousal Benefits Than Private Employers

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

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #departmentoflabor #domesticpartnerships #nationalgayandlesbiantaskforce stories and more


  • Nice Sean (formerly Sean, and Sean from england.)

    Snaps for Hilda!

  • Cam

    Wow…..7% in private industry? SEVEN PERCENT?!?!?!

    Fuck them.

  • Danny

    @Cam: Look closely at the following sentence fragment that follows the 7% stat: “reflecting in part the difference in the availability of defined benefit plans between these groups”

    what this means is that the private sector overwhelmingly does not offer ANYONE – gay, straight, bi, etc. – defined benefit plans (pensions) and instead contribute to workers’ 401Ks. Govt is still more likely to offer pension plans (whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective as an employee vs a taxpayer).

    So this isn’t really a gay issue for the private sector so much as a they-don’t-offer-pensions-much-to-their-employees issue regardless of your orientation.

  • Jim Hlavac

    There have been no “common law marriages” in this nation in like, 20 years, for they were basically removed from the law books. Now, either you get married, or you don’t. If you live together, at most you can get “palimony” in some states if you “divorce” — or move out. Common law marriages were real marriages, legally binding, (especially in regards to bigamy,) and all you had to do was live together for 5 to 7 years and hold yourself out to the public as a couple, and you were then “legally married” by law. If you then wanted to get out of it – you needed a legal divorce — no such thing as “common law divorce.” The point of common law marriages in the beginning of the nation was because there were no state marriage agencies, particularly in the wilderness areas of the nation, to go get a license at, and perhaps no clergy around to do the honors. All that has gone by the wayside, long ago.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @Jim Hlavac: Not exactly correct about the legality of common law marriages in the United States: more states involving a greater proportion of the national population recognize common-law marriages than same-sex marriages. In total, 10 states recognize common-law marriages, Texas with the highest population. Iowa and DC are the only jurisdictions that recognize both common-law and same-sex marriages.

    Iowa and DC present interesting judicial recognition problems for same-sex common-law marriages since both jurisdictions require that the common-law couples must be known within their community as “husband and wife.”

Comments are closed.