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Continued: Couples face new legal considerations

  • Article by: ADAM BELZ , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 1, 2013 - 10:40 AM

Some gay couples who now receive domestic partner benefits may see those benefits go away if they don’t get married. The Mayo Clinic said Wednesday that employees must get married to keep their partners eligible for health insurance, as long as same-sex marriage is legal in their state. The clinic has offered same-sex domestic partner health benefits for more than a decade, but does not offer those benefits to heterosexual domestic partners.

“That policy notes that marriage would be required if same-sex marriage became legal in the state where the couple lives,” said Bryan Anderson, a Mayo spokesman.

Many large companies offer same-sex domestic partner benefits, while fewer offer heterosexual domestic partner benefits, said Marcott. The reason organizations like the Mayo Clinic covered same-sex domestic partner benefits was in part because those couples could not marry.

“If the organization covered both same-sex and heterosexual domestic partnerships, I am seeing the organization keep those benefits,” Marcott said.

Aside from these issues, same-sex marriage should simplify the job of human resources departments. For instance, calculating withholding for domestic partners separately is a hassle for companies, as is creating a new payroll function for those employees, so fewer domestic partnerships and more marriages actually reduces the administrative burden.

“For HR people, in many respects this makes life easier,” Marcott said.

Three thousand new marriages would be about a 10 percent boost to the state marriage rate, where 30,122 couples made their vows in 2011, according to the National Vital Statistics System.

“It really should just look like a little surge of people getting married,” said Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts.

Whatever paper shuffling results, it will be dwarfed by the annual administrative burden of divorce, which claimed nearly 20,000 Minnesota marriages in 2011.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue says it too awaits IRS guidance on “transition issues.” But the basics are clear, and employers should recognize the tax filing status that employees give them, said Matt Massman, a deputy revenue commissioner for the state.

“It’ll be really straightforward,” Massman said. “They’ll be treated like married couples.”

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 • Twitter: @adambelz

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