Why Some Employers Are Telling Gay Workers to Marry

If they live in places where gay marriage is legal and want to keep health benefits
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2015 12:12 PM CDT
Why Some Employers Are Telling Gay Workers to Marry
Same-sex marriage supporters flood the Lansing State Capitol for a same-sex marriage candlelight vigil April 27, 2015, in Lansing, Mich.   (Danielle Duval/The Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP)

As the Supreme Court hashes out whether banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, some employers in states where gay marriage is legal are telling gay employees that they must say "I do" to keep their health benefits intact, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although the paper notes that a third of US employees in the private and public sectors can currently access health coverage for gay partners they haven't married, some companies are now stepping back from that offering because they're saying it's not fair for unmarried straight couples who could sue for "reverse discrimination" if they're not allowed the same benefit. And if the Supreme Court does rule that gay marriage is legal across the board? "The landscape totally changes," an employee benefits lawyer tells the Journal.

Some same-sex couples are OK with having to tie the knot to qualify. "This approach seemed reasonable and fair to me," a gay law professor in Minnesota given 16 months to marry her partner to keep her benefits tells the Journal (they married in October). And a Delta flight attendant says that "marriage is something we as gays and lesbians have fought for ... and Delta is acting as our ring bearer" as it phases out domestic partner benefits. But some gay advocates say that being forced to wed to retain benefits could "out" employees since marriage certificates are public record. Still, some companies aren't changing up their domestic partnership benefits, even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage. A Dow HR executive notes to the Journal that potential employees are often impressed with such a benefit and "we would miss out on a huge talent pool" if the company yanked it. (More gay marriage stories.)

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