Same-sex couples offered health benefits by CA

July 01, 2005|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association has followed the lead of the Howard County school system and government by offering full health benefits to domestic partners of the same sex.

The association implemented the policy after the Howard chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays inquired this year about the possibility of the association offering the benefits.

"We felt that would be a positive step in the right direction, in making those benefits available," association President Maggie J. Brown said. "Anytime we can enhance the benefits that we offer here, we do that across the board."

Brown said that because the policy was implemented in May, she does not know how many of the association's 300 full-time employees have taken advantage of it.

Under the policy, the Columbia Association offers the same level of benefits to same-sex domestic partners of association employees and their dependent children as those enjoyed by legally married employees.

Brown said no association employees lobbied her to extend the benefits, and Collette Roberts, the county's PFLAG co-founder and chairwoman, said no employees approached her.

But Brown said she believed it was important for the association to be proactive and to position itself as a competitive employer that can attract quality employees through a comprehensive benefits package.

Roberts said PFLAG is "thrilled" about the new policy.

"I just feel that couples who have been together in a committed relationship should have this option," she said. To be eligible, the couple must satisfy a number of requirements, including living together for a least a year; sharing a lease, mortgage or joint checking account; being responsible for each other's welfare; and being at least 18 years old.

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