What is the status of registered domestic partners in Pennsylvania post-Whitewood?
by Matthew Dulac (Summer Associate)
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples registered as “domestic partners” or “life partners” in cities like Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia may be wondering whether employers or State and Local officials will continue to provide domestic partner benefits.
Starting on June 30, 2015, Allegheny County will no longer provide benefits to county employees in registered domestic partnerships. (http://wesa.fm/post/allegheny-county-domestic-partners-given-more-time-losing-benefits.) As County Executive Rich Fitzgerald stated: “Now that same sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, I believe that it is important to continue to keep our employees on equal footing and that means requiring proof of marriage for coverage of a spouse, partner and/or family members.” With respect to the benefits afforded to all other same-sex couples registered as domestic partners, the city of Pittsburgh is apparently reviewing its policies in the wake of Whitewood and has yet to declare whether the benefits it extends will continue. In the employment context, each employer remains free to decide whether to continue to extend domestic partner benefits to its eligible employees,
At this point, it is not clear whether Harrisburg, which has provided same-sex domestic partner benefits since 2008, and Philadelphia, which has provided such benefits since 1996, will continue to do so. But, with same-sex marriage now legal in the state of Pennsylvania it would not be surprising if these cities stop extending spousal benefits in the relatively-near future to same-sex couples that are not “married”.