With Marriage an Option, Who Needs DP Benefits?

Now that it's about to be legal for same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts, some employers in the Bay State are eliminating domestic-partner benefits, requiring employees to say "I do" to their significant others if they want them to share their employer-provided family benefits such as health care coverage, reports the AP.

This, I believe, is appropriate. As I wrote a decade ago in a column title "Honey, Did You Raise the Kids?":

"Domestic partnership benefits should be a stopgap measure for gays and lesbians until we achieve full marriage rights (based on legally recognized commitments)."

I also argued that:

"Offering benefits to unmarried heterosexuals might in fact contribute to family breakdown by discouraging committed relationships."

I'd now change that, in Massachusetts at least, to read "unmarried heterosexuals and homosexuals.

The AP story says that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of the state's largest employers, will drop domestic-partner benefits for Massachusetts residents at the end of this year:

"The original reason for domestic-partner benefits was to recognize that same-sex couples could not marry," Beth Israel spokesman Jerry Berger said. "Now that they can, they are essentially on the same footing as heterosexual couples."

That's about right (though gay couples will still lack the important federal benefits associated with marriage, from social security inheritance to naturalization of a foreign-born spouses). Still, there's no need for employers to continue paying for benefits to partners who shack up but can't quite make the commitment to the emotional, financial, and legal intermingling that full marriage entails.

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