It’s been nearly four years since the Supreme Court mandated the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. And many employers are finally ready to commit on their new philosophy regarding domestic partner benefits coverage.
The trend of covering domestic partners began taking hold in the last two decades in response to the inability of same-sex couples to wed at the federal level. Only a few states were recognizing these marriages at the local level and employers felt a need to create uniformity and equitability for their employees in same-sex unions.
By the time same-sex marriage was legalized, the majority of employers were covering same-sex domestic partner relationships and many of those were even extending that coverage to opposite-sex domestic partner arrangements.
In the immediate aftermath of Obergefell v Hodges, most employers were reluctant to change domestic partner benefits with the rationale that employees can’t be expected to make marriage decisions so quickly simply because of a court ruling. In the last couple years however, employers have been increasingly revisiting the necessity to cover same-sex domestic partner coverage with many abandoning the provision – which can add up to 1% to their healthcare budgets. Those who have decided to continue, have overwhelmingly elected to expand coverage to opposite-sex domestic partners for fear that the policy covering only same-sex unions would now be discriminatory towards heterosexual couples given the legality of marriage for all.
Outside of certain progressive industries, (legal, tech) it is becoming increasingly less common to see any domestic partner coverage. And even in the legal industry we are seeing some movement away from this benefit. If this an area you have not recently explored or wanted to wait a couple years to see how trends shake out, now is the time to revisit.