Allegheny County adjusts benefits policy to include same-sex couples

Allegheny County is adjusting its benefits policy in response to last month’s ruling that made it legal for same-sex couples to marry in Pennsylvania.

Starting this summer, all couples must be married in order to receive spousal benefits from the county.

The county announced the change in an email to employees Tuesday. The specific employees affected by the change were notified by the county last week, according to a county spokeswoman.

The adjustment comes more than two years after Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald extended health and dental benefits to eligible same-sex partners of county employees, recognizing that the state did not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry at that time. Opposite-sex domestic partners were not eligible to receive benefits from the county.

The policy went into effect April 1, 2012.

Last month, a federal judge in Harrisburg ruled Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, meaning that same-sex couples could begin applying for, and would receive, marriage licenses.

“As a result of the Court’‍s recent decision, which allows same-sex couples to marry, and in order to ensure that all employees are being treated equally and fairly, the benefits provided to same-sex couples will no longer be available without proof of marriage,” county spokeswoman Amie Downs said in an email.

Employees who currently receive those benefits have until July 31 to present the county with a marriage license, she said. Benefits will terminate Aug. 1 for those without proof of marriage.

Ms. Downs said there are currently 11 employees with partners who take the domestic partner benefit. She said that employees with questions about the change are working with the county human resources department.

Chris Bryan, a spokeswoman for the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, said the LGBT community wanted to be treated equally, and the county’s adjustment shows it is.

“Now that marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, this is one step forward to full equality for the LGBT community,” she said. “We’‍re not surprised that this change has happened.”

A similar change has not occurred for employees of Pittsburgh city government, which also extended benefits to same-sex partners. Mayoral spokesman Timothy McNulty said the city is “still reviewing the impact of the court decisions on its benefit packages.”

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707. First Published June 24, 2014 4:38 PM

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