Md. same-sex couples may lose domestic partner benefits

WASHINGTON – There may be a drawback for same-sex couples now able to get married in Maryland – if they choose not to, a spouse could lose his or her benefits.

The Martin O’Malley administration extended benefits to the domestic partners of state workers in 2009. But now that Maryland allows same-sex marriage, the administration says domestic partners on state employee health insurance plans will lose coverage likely at the end of this year.

The idea is that with one standard of marriage for both gay and straight couples, there must be only one standard for who receives benefits, otherwise the state would risk lawsuits from opposite-sex couples charging discrimination.

While some support the change, Carrie Evans of Equality Maryland says it would be better if it wasn’t made so quickly just a year after the state began allowing same-sex marriage.

Evans says some same-sex couples have good reason not to marry just yet, including worries about what might happen if they move to a state that doesn’t have laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I really see it in the very foreseeable future where our marriages and the treatment of both individuals because of their sexual orientation and couples in their marriages, we’re going to have that level playing field and this won’t even be an issue. If we were talking in maybe two or three years, I don’t think we would have any problems with the administration’s decision,” she says.

She estimates the change may impact a few hundred state workers.

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