Domestic partnerships and health benefits

Until same-sex marriage was legalized in New Jersey, many gay and lesbian couples had limited options for receiving certain benefits generally reserved for married couples. As domestic partners, these couples were able to qualify for health insurance coverage, for example, from some employers. In other situations, they were still looked upon as unmarried couples.

According to the State of New Jersey Department of Health website, New Jersey enacted legalized domestic partnerships in 2004. When civil unions were created in 2007, some of the rules for domestic partners were changed. Now, as family legal issues have led to ability for all couples to get married in any state, some questions are arising about previously developed domestic partnerships. An article in the New York Times notes that it is unclear as to how different companies will handle employee benefits in this changing environment.

Some large corporations have already announced their choices to rescind healthcare coverage to people in domestic partnerships. Couples may be given a certain period of time in which to get married in order to retain their benefits or be prepared to lose them. Offering health insurance for domestic partners was sometimes only allowed for gay or lesbian couples since they did not have the ability to marry. However, 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies that extended this benefit did so also for heterosexual couples. In these cases, keeping the coverage may be more likely than in situations where this was not the case.

This issue is just one more that highlights the complexities involved in this area of family law. When questions like these arise, it can be helpful to discuss things with an attorney.