Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why Don’t Same-Sex Couples Have the Same Work Benefits as Traditional Couples?

From my column in

In North Carolina, I live in land of inequality. Straight couples and their children have advantages that same-sex couples do not. For example, all public or governmental state-funded positions — from the person who works in a secretarial position to a senior university professor, the state police trooper to all elected officials — in which a person works full-time and receives a benefit package (salary, health care, and retirement benefits), there is a difference in terms of who may be covered under the health care and retirement benefits plans. For a straight couple and family, the other family members’ health care — including children — may be covered, and the retirement benefits can be shared between spouses. Such is not the case for same-sex couples and our children.
I know this from personal experience, as my partner and I are both public employees. My partner and I have our own individual paychecks, separate health benefit plans, and individual retirement programs, which cannot be shared between us. And when one of us dies, neither of us will get the other person’s social security benefits (when we reach that proverbial old age), nor can we continue to share in the pension plan we are each on individually. In an ironic twist, my partner — in his role in the university where he works — is responsible for signing off on a health care plan for graduate students who are in same sex relationships. While the state of North Carolina already had its own Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), stipulating that marriage is between a man and a woman, this inequality was further buttressed by the recent amendment of the state constitution of North Carolina that states the same condition: marriage is between a man and a woman. Any other kind of domestic relationship — common law marriage or straight domestic partnership — mean nothing legally in North Carolina.
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