By: Amanda Vann, Esq.
Maryland state employees in a same-sex relationship are no longer able to include their partner or their partner’s children on their health insurance as domestic partners now that the state has legalized same-sex marriage. Beginning July 2013, state employees will no longer be able to enroll new partners and domestic partnership health insurance coverage will be halted beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Same-Sex Marriage Law in Maryland
Originally, same-sex couples were treated as domestic partners, which allowed them to cover their partner and children in insurance plans. When Maryland voters passed the Question 6 referendum in November, which legalized same-sex marriage in the state by upholding the Civil Marriage Protection Act, they prompted the change in domestic partnership health insurance.
Since Question 6 was passed by Maryland voters, the governor has stated that same-sex couples now have the right to marry and therefore will be afforded the same rights as opposite sex couples. For opposite sex couples, state health coverage is only offered to those who are married. The governor asserts that because same-sex couples can now marry, health coverage will only be offered to same-sex couples who are married as well.
Proponents for the LGBT community argue that the new policy requires same-sex couples to get married to get health coverage. But because the Federal government has yet to recognize same-sex marriages, they face a disparity in rights to benefits. For example, under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex married couples lack federal benefits, including access to a spouse’s Social Security benefits and joint tax return filing.
The Future of Same-Sex Marriage Health Insurance
It’s not just the State of Maryland reassessing the insurance benefits offered to employees as same-sex marriage laws change. Many private companies are considering the same change regarding domestic partnership health insurance, but the problem arises in a situation when an employer has offices in more than one state. If you have a company with an office in Maryland, a state that recognizes same-sex marriages, and also in Virginia, a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, what kind of legal ramification will the company face if it offers different types of benefit plans to the employees in Maryland than those in Virginia?
There doesn’t appear to be a simple answer to this question, but I for one am glad that there are healthy discussions about the changes facing families and am hopeful that the people along with our government can come to solutions that are in the best interest for everyone.