Board of Directors Approves Same-Gender Domestic Partner Benefits
The Board of Directors of the Board of Pensions has voted to extend spousal and child benefits to same-gender domestic partners of Benefits Plan members. To qualify, a member will have to verify that he or she has a civil license or certificate evidencing a civil marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership from a state or foreign jurisdiction.
The Board will formally present its decision to the 220th General Assembly, set for June 30 through July 7, in Pittsburgh. However, the directors’ vote is binding, so no further action is needed. After the presentation to the General Assembly, the Board will notify members about enrollment details. Coverage will be available beginning January 1, 2013.
The Board of Directors voted on the matter at its meeting in Philadelphia on March 3, after receiving the report of recommendation from the Special Committee on Domestic Partner Benefits. The committee, drawn from the Board of Directors, studied various issues surrounding the matter for more than a year. Study began after the 219th General Assembly (2010) approved a resolution urging the Board to extend spousal and dependent benefits to same-gender partners on the same basis as it does for opposite-gender married couples.
The Benefits Plan will be amended to include a new relationship definition: A Qualified Domestic Partner "is an individual who is in a legally sanctioned same-gender union with a Member affording rights of inheritance under the laws of the jurisdiction where the union occurred." The plan’s definition of Spouse will be revised to read "an individual who is legally married to a Member in a marriage that conforms to the definition of marriage in the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)."
The 219th General Assembly had authorized the Board to increase employer dues by up to 1 percent to compensate for any rise in costs tied to adding the new participants. The Board determined that a dues increase was not needed at this time, but it will continue to monitor the situation, according to Robert W. Maggs, Jr., Board president and chief executive. Because there was no immediate dues increase, the Board of Directors did not design a relief of conscience mechanism.
"The members of the special committee invested more than a year in discernment of this matter," Mr. Maggs said. "It was a demanding assignment, which they accepted graciously and with the high level of commitment that it required."