Now that same-sex marriage is legal in 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, two large employers are requiring gay couples to marry to continue receiving family benefits. The idea is that those whose state allows them to marry should, just as heterosexual couples must if the employee's partner is to be covered by company benefits.
Here’s a look at how two multinational corporations are handling the matter:
Verizon levels the playing field on benefits.
Last year, Verizon informed employees in domestic partnerships in states where same sex-marriage was legal, they had six months to marry or else their partners would lose benefits.
“We’re bringing our benefits in line, making them consistent with what we do for everyone else,” Ray McConville, Verizon spokesman, said in a PBS News article about the change. "Currently, if you're a guy living with a longtime girlfriend or vice versa, you don't have the ability to get health insurance for your partner."
Now that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry in certain states, there’s no need for them to provide alternative proof of partnership for benefits. The same rules have long applied to opposite-sex couples.
Delta Air Lines compensates for phasing out benefits.
Delta is slowly phasing out health benefits for domestic partners in states where same-sex marriage is legal. But, as of April, Delta has enacted a new policy that makes up for the phase-out in a big way.
For all employees covered by its health care plan, Delta will pay federal and state income and payroll taxes associated with the coverage, relieving employees of the tax burden. The company intends to even out benefits and tax treatment for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
"While this issue remains unsettled on a national level, Delta's commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect is rooted deeply in the airline's values and culture," said Joanne Smith, Delta's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, in a recent press release. "By providing equality in this critically important area of benefit costs for employees with same-sex domestic partners, we will continue to build a great place to work."
For Delta employees, the mandate isn’t seen as an ultimatum as much as it is a long-awaited door opened with ushers guiding in the masses.
“Marriage is something we as gays and lesbians have fought for, for years, and Delta is acting as our ring bearer,” Mathew Palmer, a Delta flight attendant in New York, said in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
Many employers supported equal rights by extending benefits to gay partners, despite marriage laws. But now that several states have legalized gay marriage, it’s only a matter of time before more employers adjust their policies to “redefine” equal.