29 June 2015

For The Community, A Victory. For You And Your Partner, Maybe Not So Much.

As I have said in earlier posts, even though I support marriage equality, I would much prefer that the government got out of the marriage business altogether, save to set a minimum age at which people can enter into a union.  And it would be exactly that—a union.  It would allow couples visitation and inheritance rights and specify custody and other responsibilities. It would also allow one member of the couple to add the other to her or his health care policy and apartment lease agreement or title to the house. However, there would be no tax benefit for getting married. 

One reason why I believe in such an arrangement even more firmly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling became apparent to me today.  Now same-sex marriage is legal throughout the US, employers will be required to allow workers to add their same-sex spouses to their health insurance policies.  This begs the question:  Will employers stop offering domestic-partner benefits?  Will they require couples, whether hetero- or homo-sexual, to be married in order to share in the benefits the company offers?

One of the great ironies of my life is that I was once included in a partner’s health-care benefits—when I was still living as a man with a female partner.  We had a domestic partnership agreement, which New York City was offering to all couples at that time (late 1990’s and early 2000’s).  If I were still with her—whether in my former or current identity—would she be allowed to include me on her health insurance? 

I’m guessing that the answer would be “yes” just because this is New York City and her company had a surprisingly (to me at the time, anyway) enlightened view of such things.  But what if we’d been in one of those states where same-sex marriage—and even domestic partnerships—weren’t legal before last week’s ruling?  It’s hard for me to imagine that a company based in a state that didn’t have domestic partnerships would allow partners’ benefits, especially if it was compelled by court order to offer insurance to same-sex couples.

Somehow I think the battles not only aren’t over; they haven’t even begun yet.