Friday, May 3, 2013

Around The Nation

Maryland Governor To Unmarried Gay & Lesbian State Employees: Get married or lose benefits
ANNAPOLIS, MD -- Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's administration has notified state employees in same-sex relationships that they won't be able to include domestic partners in their health insurance anymore. The shared benefits will end on December 31. If they want coverage, they'll have to get married. The policy change is the result of the new Maryland law allowing same-sex marriage, which took effect January 1 of this year.
An administration source told LGBTQ Nation Friday that the change would affect several hundred state employees. According to that official, offering health coverage to unmarried same-sex partners no longer makes sense in light of the new marriage law particularly since unmarried heterosexual partners don't have the same benefits.
LGBTQ Equality Rights organisations and activists are not happy with the new policy. 
"It's really not the most equitable thing to be doing right now," said Carrie Evans, Executive Director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Maryland.
Governor O'Malley's spokesperson, Raquel Guillory, noted that O'Malley had extended domestic partnership status to state employee same-sex couples, but not unmarried straight couples, because same-sex couples were not permitted to marry.
Now that same-sex couples can marry, Guillory said, that reason no longer exists. The administration introduced domestic partner benefits in 2009. She added that state employees in same-sex relationships who don't now have the domestic partner coverage will not be allowed to apply for it.
"If Maryland continued to offer same-sex couples two paths to benefits and opposite-sex couples only one, Guillory said, the state could face lawsuits. The administration has received legal advice that trying to maintain the status quo could open the state to a challenge from a straight couple under the equal protection clause of the Constitution."
Evans said she doesn't see the O'Malley administration's action as hostile but as premature. She said officials didn't consult her group before promulgating the policy — but she wishes they had.
"We would like to see domestic partnership benefits on the books for same-sex couples until there's a level playing field with regard to marriage," she said.
Marilee Lindemann, who runs the LGBT Studies program at the University of Maryland agreed with Evans' assessment.
"It's a decision that was made prematurely given the uneven landscape for gay and lesbian couples across the country," Lindemann says. "It's something that forces people into marriage."
Maggie McIntosh, an openly gay member of the General Assembly, said the time is now reports The Baltimore Sun. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs a powerful House committee, said the administration is doing the right thing.
"In Maryland, we have a level playing field," she said. "Because we fought for equality, we got equality, we should now be embracing equality."
McIntosh, who married earlier this year under the new law, said she doubts many same-sex couples in domestic partnerships will rush to the courthouse just because of the policy change.
"Marrying somebody for their health insurance is a little bit of the wrong motivation," she said.


Trab said...

I can certainly see both sides of this argument, but the reality is that same sex marriage in Maryland, as one of many states in the Union, is still not truly equal. Only when every aspect of the marriage is equal, under both state and federal laws, will it be time to remove 'special' protections.