Thanks to Jonathan for sending me the great news that Google will cover the extra tax costs for employees with same-sex partners whose domestic partner benefits coverage is treated as taxable income (unlike spousal benefits). It is infuriating that Google would level the playing field only for same-sex partners, leaving different-sex partners to pay more or “just get married.” This is one of my biggest pet peeves, and here is (a corrected version of) what I posted as a comment on the New York Times blog about the story.
As reported by HRC, Google extends benefits to the domestic partners of both same- and different-sex employees (as do 95% of companies that offer DP benefits).
According the US Census Bureau, there are three times as many different-sex unmarried partner households in the San Francisco – Oakland – Fremont Metro Area workforce than same-sex ones. Nationwide, different-sex partners comprise 88.6% of the 6.15 million households headed by cohabiting couples. In a 2006 study, Badgett of the Williams Institute (who is quoted in the main article) wrote that “people with different-sex partners who have domestic partner coverage [currently] outnumber the same-sex partners with domestic partner coverage by a nine to one margin” and that, if all US employers offered DP benefits, “out of every thousand employees, on average only one to four would sign up a same-sex partner, and another 13–21 would sign up a different-sex partner.”
This is not a “gay” issue, it is a public health and social justice issue. Again quoting Badgett, “Gay men and lesbians in couples are more likely to be uninsured than are married heterosexuals, and people with unmarried different-sex partners are the least likely to be insured.” In addition, different-sex partners are also more likely to be people of color, and to have lower incomes, than married or same-sex couples. (More on unmarried people’s access to health care.)
What a company as rich as Google should do is convert its entire family benefits structure to a plus-one model, in which every employee has an equal right to extend benefits to her/his economic dependents, children up to age 26 (per new federal law) plus one non-dependent adult regardless of relationship type.
Google’s new subsidy policy is a ridiculously wrong-headed move that will surely antagonize it’s workforce and should hurt its global reputation.