Tuesday, July 9, 2013

U.S. Federal Gov't: Civil Unions/Domestic Partnerships are Powdered Milk

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last month, paving the way for federal recognition of America's legally married gay and lesbian citizens. Since then, the Office of Personnel Management has been rolling out blue-prints for how married same-sex spouses and their children should be treated by employers, insurers, and the federal government itself. One thing that was unclear before was just clarified by the OPM. This only applies to legally married same-sex couples. Civil unions and domestic partnerships don't apply to these post-DOMA changes:
The Obama administration will not extend federal-worker benefits to domestic partners under the Supreme Court ruling that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, meaning the government will treat civil unions differently than legal same-sex marriages.

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.
Currently, there are four states that offer civil unions to gay and lesbian couples: Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey. (Rhode Island is technically a fifth "civil union" state, but that state will become a marriage equality state in August 2013.) How long will the civilly unionized residents of those states tolerate their "powdered milk" marriages? Especially when some gay & lesbian couples within those states (federal employees who got married in an actual marriage equality state, for example) will have full marital recognition while most others' relationships will be legally invisible under federal law.

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