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Domestic partner benefits here to stay — for now

Domestic partner benefits here to stay — for now

A majority of employers will probably continue to offer spousal benefits to their employees' domestic partners even though same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, a survey shows.

Seventy-one percent of companies that currently cover employees' gay and lesbian domestic partners under their benefit plans said they will likely continue to offer the coverage following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last month striking down state-level bans on same-sex marriage, according to survey results published Thursday by the Brookfield, Wisconsin-based International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

An even larger majority of employers that offer coverage to employees' opposite-sex domestic partners said those benefits will likely still be available in the coming plan year.

In both cases, employers' main reasons for retaining domestic partner benefits were maintaining equity in their plan designs and making themselves more attractive to quality employees.

“(Employers) see providing benefits — to both same- and opposite-sex domestic partners — as a way to ensure employees and their loved ones are happy and healthy,” Julie Stich, research director at the IFEBP, said in a statement accompanying the survey.

Very few employers polled indicated that they have made firm plans to drop domestic partner benefits as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling. Approximately 6% of employers providing same-sex domestic partner benefits and 3% of employers that cover opposite-sex domestic partners said they will definitely discontinue those benefits.

Another 23% of employers said it was either somewhat or very unlikely that they will continue covering same-sex domestic partners, and 15% said the same of their benefits coverage for opposite-sex domestic partners.

Employers' most common reason for dropping same-sex domestic partner benefits was the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, while the most common reason given for discontinuing opposite-sex domestic partner benefits was that the company also plans to end coverage for same-sex domestic partners.

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