by Jonathan McFadden,
Originally published by The Charlotte Observer, Aug. 4, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Now that gay marriage is legal nationwide, eight Mecklenburg County employees whose partners received health benefits will have to marry if they want their partners listed as dependents.

With little discussion, the board of county commissioners unanimously approved on Tuesday cutting benefits for domestic partners of gay employees in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Under the change, domestic partnerships – defined by the county as a long-term relationship between people of the same sex who live together and are financially interdependent – will no longer be an option when employees choose their health care plans this fall. Gay employees who wed will be able to list their spouses as dependents.

Joel Riddle, county human resources director, asked the board to eliminate domestic partner coverage since issues surrounding the county’s decision to offer benefits to unmarried same-sex couples in 2011 have been addressed. He said the county could save about $32,000 by rescinding the health coverage if those employees remain unmarried.

If they do marry and seek spousal benefits, then “we would save nothing” but expenses won’t change, either, Riddle said. Some of the workers affected have disclosed they are married, he said.

The new policy, which goes into effect Jan. 1, treats gay employees the same as their heterosexual peers, Riddle said. The county does not offer benefits to unmarried straight couples.

The change, he said, mimics other companies, such as Verizon Communications and Delta Airlines, that have cut benefits for partners. Last week, the city of Charlotte cut benefits for the domestic partners of 19 employees.

Commissioner Pat Cotham said she spoke with some LGBT people ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

“They were all very understanding and said this is equity,” Cotham said.

The Charlotte Observer

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