City recommends cutting benefits for same-sex unmarried partners

The city of Charlotte staff is recommending that City Council eliminate benefits for the same-sex partners of employees who aren’t married.

Charlotte first offered the benefits to gay and lesbian employees in January 2013. But gay marriage has been legal in North Carolina since last fall, and became legal nationwide earlier this summer.

“With the recent (Supreme Court) ruling, same-sex couples now have the option of legally recognized marriage, therefore this change will treat both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples the same,” Human Resources Director Cheryl Brown said in a memo.

The city does not offer benefits to the partners of unmarried opposite-sex partners.

If the City Council approves cutting the benefits, the change would go into effect in January. City employees will choose their health plans during an enrollment period this fall.

Nineteen city employees have coverage for same-sex partners.

If the change is approved, the city would be following the lead of some companies.

IBM was one of the first large U.S. companies to offer benefits to same-sex partners in the mid-1990s. But as gay marriage became legal in more states, the technology company required gay and lesbian employees to be married in states where they could, if they wanted a partner to receive benefits, according to the New York Times.

Verizon has taken similar steps, according to news reports.

Other companies have offered benefits to unmarried partners in both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.

Wells Fargo, for instance, allows eligible employees to enroll a spouse or domestic partner – regardless of gender – for benefits. That will not change, a representative said Thursday.

Mecklenburg County offers benefits to same-sex unmarried partners and has said it’s reviewing benefit options.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs