Press

Eight States Now Offer Domestic Partner Benefits, NGLTF Finds

Date: 
October 19, 2000

Range of benefits, who qualifies varies widely from state to state; benefits more commonly used by opposite-sex unmarried couples

As the definition of a traditional nuclear family continues to significantly evolve, eight states now offer some form of domestic partnership benefits to state employees, according to a seven-page report issued today by the Family Policy Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The report may be read or downloaded by visiting www.ngltf.org/pi/dpbstate.htm.

The eight states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Two of the states - Delaware and Massachusetts - provide only bereavement leave and family sick leave. The remaining six states offer more extensive benefits, including health care.

"The movement for domestic partnership benefits is rooted in the democratic notion of equal pay for equal work," said NGLTF Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo. "With benefits comprising nearly 40 percent of a worker's compensation, employees who can obtain benefits for their spouses are, in effect, paid higher than employees in relationships which are not legally recognized. Domestic partnership benefits, then, are a means of working toward greater economic justice in the workplace."

The NGLTF report contains information on what year each state's domestic partner plan was enacted, who is covered, what benefits are provided, how many employees have taken advantage of the benefits, and the contact information for obtaining more information about the DP program in each state.

Among the report's findings:

  • Five states - Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Vermont - offer benefits to all unmarried partners, same-sex and opposite sex.
  • Three states - California, Connecticut and Washington - offer benefits to same-sex partners only.
  • Opposite-sex partners have taken advantage of the benefits much more often than same-sex partners. For example, in Vermont, 5.2 percent of the workforce (339 employees out of a total state workforce of 6,500) have identified as domestic partners and are receiving health care benefits for their partners. Of these 339 individuals, 291 are in unmarried, opposite-sex partnerships and 48 are in same-sex partnerships.
  • Not surprisingly because of its large population and length of time it has offered benefits, New York has the highest number of state employees signed up to receive domestic partnership benefits. Some 1,992 employees - about 1 percent of the total workforce of 200,000 - are receiving health care coverage for their partners.

Paula Ettelbrick, NGLTF Family Policy Director, who authored the report, said the new information on state domestic partner benefits is beneficial both as a tool for researchers and for advocates in both the private and public sectors who might be pursuing DP benefits. She noted that the eight state governments that offer domestic partnership benefits are leaders in the DP movement, not just because of the size of their workforce, but also because public employers often are willing, if not required, to divulge the number of participants in the programs and their cost.

"This documentation allows policy makers, advocates and researchers information necessary to assess the costs to other employers, especially state governments, of adopting these policies," Ettelbrick said. "These eight states are at the forefront of recognizing that the traditional nuclear family is no longer made up of a man, a woman and one or more children. Today's 'traditional' family also includes same-sex couples, with or without children, as well as opposite-sex couples who for whatever reason have chosen not to marry or remarry. All families deserve access to health care and other benefits, regardless of their individual circumstance. That's just fairness in the workplace, no more and no less."

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.