Labor & Employment

As same-sex marriage gains ground, some employers cut benefits for same-sex couples who don't wed

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Same-sex marriage has become legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia in recent years, and could soon be more widely recognized, depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in pending cases.

However, now that same-sex marriage is possible in a majority of states, a number of employers there are cutting benefits for same-sex couples who don’t legally wed, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

That can be a problem for some who are not open about their same-sex relationships, because anti-discrimination laws in a majority of states don’t protect gays and lesbians from backlash at work, advocates say.

“The main idea is to make things fair for everyone,” a Verizon Communications Inc. spokesman tells the newspaper. “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.”

Among those affected by benefits restrictions are professor Mary Pat Bryn of William Mitchell College of Law and her longtime partner, Kathy Bryn, who works at the University of Minnesota. Both employers set a 16-month deadline for the two to legally marry, or lose coverage, so they tied the knot last October.

“This approach seemed reasonable and fair to me,” said Mary Pat Byrn.

See also: “SCOTUS to review a handful of cases on the rights of same-sex couples”

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