Most people when they hear that my BF's employer only covers same-sex domestic partners, not opposite sex ask me: "can they do that?" Or, "Isn't that discrimination?"
My response until now has been that I didn't think there was a legal mandate for any employer to give anyone health insurance, so that's why I thought they could do that.
Yeah, you realize, that right? The only reason employers give any employee health insurance is to have a competitive compensation package, and to be able to attract the right employees. OK, I'm sure there are some that do it because they think it's right...but frankly if more and more companies stopped offering health care, or made you pay much more of the price for it...it would become the norm. (And isn't that happening just a bit...don't most employees have to pay more and more?)
Anyway, I asked the legal folks at sponsor eHealthInsurance.com if they could give me the real answer on it, and the answer is in the extended entry...
So here was the question exactly as posed to them:
Here is the scenario:
A man is employed at Company P and he is able to provide health insurance benefits for his domestic partner, his live-in girlfriend. He leaves Company P to work for Company M, a Washington-based company with offices in Silicon Valley. Now, he cannot provide health insurance for his live-in girlfriend because Company M has a corporate policy that only same-sex couples are eligible for domestic partner benefits.
My question is, is that legal? Can individual companies determine their own definition of domestic partners in CA and provide benefits to same sex couples but not heterosexual couples?
And here is what the legal department replied:
The answer is, "it depends". First, California's new domestic partner law (effective January 2005) regulates the benefits provided by insurers, not employers. Accordingly, it's the insurance company's job to comply with the law and only offer plans that include domestic partner benefits in accordance with the new law.
The law requires all group health insurance policies to provide domestic partners with health coverage that is equal to what spouses receive. This means that companies can only purchase coverage that also include equal benefits for domestic partners. As to what constitutes a "domestic partner", any person in the State of California can qualify as a domestic partner if they file a valid Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the State. Among other things, this declaration requires that the domestic
partners be of the same sex. However, there are certain cities in California (e.g., San Francisco and L.A.) that allow opposite-sex partners to register as domestic partners.
So, I went to the California state site, just to check it out, and sure enough, here is the link. Only one clarification: you must be same sex...or opposite sex and over 62 years old.
So in 2 decades or so my BF and I should be OK.