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This is exactly what I was worried about when I wrote the Op-ed in the New York Times last week.  From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Gay Couples Losing Perks

Legal Same-Sex Marriage in State Leads Companies to Cut Partner Benefits

By JOANN S. LUBLIN And DANA MATTIOLI

The legalization of gay marriage in New York means some couples may have to walk down the aisle for the most practical of reasons: to hold onto their partners’ health insurance and other benefits.

At least two major employers—Raytheon Co. and International Business Machines Corp.—say New York employees in same-sex relationships now will have to get married if they want to qualify for the benefits.

The companies appear to be the exceptions among big corporate employers.

[Bride] Associated PressPaola Perez, left, and her partner Linda Collazo, dressed as bride and groom, marched in the annual Gay Pride parade in Greenwich Village, New York.

Most have continued to offer domestic-partner benefits—health care being the most common—to workers with same-sex partners in the states that recognize gay marriage.

Currently, 37% of Fortune 1000 companies provide domestic-partner benefits, according to a 2011 study by Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA’s School of Law that researches sexual orientation in law and public policy.

After Massachusetts legalized same-sex unions in 2004, a few employers there dropped domestic-partner benefits and told staffers they had to wed.

However, most just kept their policies, according to research done by the Williams Institute. The employers most likely to drop the benefits were those that offer them only to same-sex couples; many firms offer benefits to heterosexual nonmarried couples as well.

At both Raytheon and IBM, employees in heterosexual relationships must also be wed for partners to receive benefits.

Raytheon, a Waltham, Mass.-based defense contractor, has less than 100 employees in New York, and it is difficult to determine how many might be affected by a shift in policy, according to a spokesman.

Employees will get a grace period of several months before they have to wed, the spokesman said, in keeping with the company’s policy in other states that allow gay marriage.

The case is similar at IBM.

In other states where civil unions are allowed or gay marriage legalized, such as Massachusetts, the Armonk, N.Y.-based company has required that couples enter into a union or get hitched to keep the perks.

The company, which employs 427,000 people world-wide, has offered the benefits since 1996.

Northeastern University in Boston explored the possibility of phasing out domestic-partner benefits after gay marriage became legal there, according to Mike Armini, a spokesman.

But “we ended up keeping the benefits” after discovering some gay staffers “couldn’t get married for various reasons,” he said.

Among the reasons was that one partner was in the military, which had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Because the federal government doesn’t recognize gay marriage, some gay and lesbian employees seeking U.S. citizenship feared encountering bureaucratic delays by being married under the new Massachusetts law, Mr. Armini added.

It’s doubtful that many major companies will drop such benefits in states that allow gay marriage because they prefer nationwide policies, says R. Bradley “Brad” Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute. Instead, Mr. Sears expects to see more examples like New York, where the business community helped lobby for passage of the gay-marriage legislation.

Most companies see domestic-partner benefits as a key perk that attracts workers. “Our aim is to attract and retain a diverse and talented work force and to be considered an employer of choice.,” said Paul Fox, a Procter & Gamble Co. spokesman. The consumer-goods giant inaugurated its benefits in 2001 and plans to keep offering them.

Write to Joann S. Lublin at joann.lublin@wsj.com and Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com

4 comments

  1. ?! 2 NY Employers Requiring Gay Employees to Marry to Keep Benefits http://bit.ly/k0MCMh #NY4M

  2. […] Source: http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/genderandsexualitylawblog/2011/06/29/its-starting-2-ny-employers-requi… […]

  3. […] Source: http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/genderandsexualitylawblog/2011/06/29/its-starting-2-ny-employers-requi… […]

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