Case study on granting domestic partnership benefits.

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Domestic Partner


Domestic Partner Relationships



Domestic Partner Relationships

California is receiving considerable notoriety in newspaper headlines about legalizing domestic partner marriage. The Supreme Court's decision is a major victory in the equal rights movement for gay and lesbian couples but until now, the state of California or those doing business in California had no legal obligation to offer benefits to same-sex couples. Will the Supreme Court's decision have a positive or negative impact for a company offering benefit packages to its employees?

In most states where domestic partnerships are recognized, both partners must file a declaration of domestic partnership with the Secretary of State. Although the registration process validates domestic partners eligibility for benefits, currently those benefits are far from being the same as a traditionally married man and wife. The effect this has on corporations is minimal. Companies need only extend the same coverage offered to married couples and more often than not, those benefits are at the expense of the employee. Not many companies extend benefit coverage to the entire family at the companies expense.

Because of the strides that gay and lesbian couples are making in the area of legalizing same-sex marriage, the next obvious step in this process would be the inclusion of domestic partner benefits within every company nationwide. The question many are asking, what is a domestic partner? According to various definitions, domestic partners can consist of a gay or lesbian couple, or heterosexual couples who have been together for a substantial amount of time and are not legally married, also referred to as common-law, or in some circumstances, even married couples. It is our contention that every couple, whether same sex, different religious beliefs, or ethnic background, should first be considered as human beings. The added incentive for employers to extend domestic partner benefits is phenomenal. Well-trained and qualified employees in domestic partner relationships are more prone to work their best, be productive, leading to over-all job satisfaction and boosting inner-office employee morale. Companies known to extend equal benefits have proven statistically to have a much lower rate of turnover; thereby, increasing profit margins.

In California according to section 297 of the Family Code, it describes, "domestic partners are two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." (EBRI, 2008) A look at what constitutes a domestic partner relationship, is narrowed down to four key elements: 1) at least 18 years of age; 2) not related by blood that would permit them from being married by law; 3) must share a committed relationship; 4) must be exclusive; and 5) need to be financially interdependent. Below are a few more factors to take into consideration when determining eligibility:

You must be members of the same sex. (Opposite-sex couples over the age of 62 are eligible under certain circumstances).

Must reside at the same residence.

Once the criteria are met, a couple would need to register to finalize the domestic partnership. Form NP/SF DP-1 titled 'Declaration of Domestic Partnership" would need to be completed and filed with the Secretary of State which requires a $10.00 filing. (California Secretary of State Debra Brown, 2004)

By legislative standards, the validity of domestic partnerships has a far-reaching inference to individual states; in addition, how these decisions are affecting companies. Each individual state has a different set of rules governing their domestic partnership laws. Because of the recent changes in California Legislation, these benefits would no longer be voluntary for companies, unless self-insured. The same opportunity of benefits must be offered to employees...
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