Main | Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Feds: Domestic Partners Are Ineligble For Benefits Now Granted Without DOMA

The federal government yesterday clarified that added benefits being granted now that DOMA has been (partially) overturned will not be available unless the couple is legally married.
The Office of Personnel Management made that announcement in a series of memos to federal benefits administrators and insurance carriers, saying couples who are not legally married “will remain ineligible for most federal benefits programs.” However, any existing benefits provided to domestic partners will remain intact, OPM said. Questions remain about how the administration will treat same-sex couples and domestic partners outside the federal workforce, including with Social Security, tax and veterans’ benefits. The agencies that handle those programs have not issued guidance.
This announcement may be good news for those in states that only offer civil unions.  Zack Ford explains at Think Progress:
Four states continue to offer civil unions: Hawaii, Colorado, Illinois, and New Jersey (Rhode Island’s civil unions will end August 1 when the marriage equality law takes effect). Though Colorado would require a constitutional amendment to upgrade civil unions to marriages, the decision has a profound impact on legislative efforts in the other three states. Lawmakers in each have argued that civil unions are satisfactory and provide the same benefits as opposite-sex couples’ marriages, but under federal law that is no longer true. This is particularly true in New Jersey, where the state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples deserve complete equality, so civil unions offered there are now a violation of the state’s constitution.

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