Sunday, February 25, 2007

ERISA negates many state laws protecting gays from discrimination in employee benefits

A recent case in Washington State shows that many state laws, aimed at prohibiting private employers from discriminating against domestic partners in granting benefits based on gender or sexual orientation, are essentially vacated if the benefits are legally driven by the federal ERISA, the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

In that case there was a twist: a female employee of Honeywell in Redmond, WA could not keep benefits for her unmarried male partner (under the Washington state law) because they were not a same-sex couple.

This seems to be an example of where "federalism," allowing states to experiment with socially controversial problems on their own, doesn't work -- just as with attempts to ban gay marriage in the federal constitution.

The Washington Blade story from Feb 23, 2007, is here. My blog on retirement income (affected by ERISA) is here.

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