A Federal Judge just determined that denial of health care benefits to same sex partners is unconstitutional. This is the first decision in several pending cases in Federal Court alleging that same sex couples are being discriminated against with regards to benefits and rights afforded married heterosexual couples. One way that states have been able to avoid lower court decisions on health care and other benefits from impacting their anti-gay marriage stance has been to grant benefits, on an opt in basis, to same sex couples. These provision basically mean that companies can opt to cover same sex couples in the same way they cover heterosexual ones but are not legally required to cover anyone (straight or gay). Nevertheless, a national level health care plan like the one proposed by the Obama administration would have to definitively cover or deny coverage to same sex couples since it is proposed as a plan that would cover all N. Americans not currently covered by an employer and to offer incentives to employers to match the coverage the government was offering. Such a decision could be the first chink in the anti-marriage armor by establishing equality for same sex couples in benefits and rights still largely reserved for heterosexuals. At the same time, extending those benefits through other means could also help the anti-marriage groups by inadvertently buttressing their “separate but equal” rhetoric.
image: afp phot/alfredo estrella