San Francisco workers may be reimbursed on same-sex couple benefits
San Francisco public employees who add their same-sex spouses or domestic partners to their health insurance have always faced a raw deal compared to their straight married counterparts: the premiums are considered taxable income and the employer takes additional federal tax out of the worker’s paycheck.
But a San Francisco supervisor has now proposed to end the “discriminatory” practice and “reimburse those same sex domestic partners to make them whole.”
Supervisor Mark Farrell, who introduced the proposed legislation this week, said it was crafted over the past year with help from Google, which has led the charge nationally to compensate gay and lesbian workers who receive unequal treatment compared to straight married couples under the federal tax code, Farrell said. Google helped Cambridge, Mass., craft a similar policy, he noted.
While a number of states have legalized domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage, granting couples state tax advantages, the federal government under the Defense of Marriage Act does not recognize such unions. Untaxed health care premiums for spouses are among a host of federal protections that married gay and lesbian couples are denied, along with immigration rights, Social Security survivor’s benefits, and the ability to file joint tax returns.
U.S. Supreme Court justices this month are expected to consider whether to review a number of challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act. But for Farrell, who is married to a woman and has three children, one a newborn, there was no reason to wait.
“I, like many people in San Francisco, fully support same-sex marriage and marriage equality,” Farrell said in an interview. “As a straight male, you sometimes don’t realize all the injustices experienced by same-sex couples on a daily basis. This was something I wanted to correct, and I think everyone at City Hall feels the same way.”
The ordinance will be taken up by supervisors in January, he said. If it passes, it is expected to cost the city about $1 million a year.
--Lee Romney in San Francisco
Photo: Eric Rofes, right, and Crispin Hollings, who wed on Valentine's Day, rally in support of gay marriage in San Francisco. Credit: Noah Berger / Associated Press