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Will Boeing deny marital benefits to same-sex couples in Washington?

DOMA Repeal Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

The sourcing on this one doesn’t make it a slam dunk, but it’s still interesting, nonetheless (and potentially quite disappointing).  The Huffington Post reported last week that according to one source, the Boeing Company is not planning to offer marital benefits to same-sex couples who marry in Washington when the state’s recently-approved marriage equality law goes into effect in December:

The Stranger cites Ray Goforth, the executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, who alleged that officials for the Boeing Company have “no intention of granting pension survivor benefits to legally married same-sex couples because they didn’t have to.”

Goforth, who reportedly heard the information during a retirement benefits talk, said representatives of the aerospace giant
told him that as pensions are governed by federal law (which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage), state law should have no impact on such benefits. “We were profoundly disappointed to see that they would use a loophole to engage in institutionalized discrimination,” he says.

Still, a spokesman for Boeing seemed to imply that Goforth’s claims were a misunderstanding, but stopped short of confirming or denying the allegations, other than to note the company was “taking a closer look at how [Referendum 74] might impact company policies once it takes effect in December.”

“Nothing is ever final in negotiations until they’re over,” Doug Alder told The Stranger. “What we said today is that [these pension benefits] are not currently addressed in the contract.”

 It’s really important to stress that this is only one source passing on a comment made in what sounds like a closed-door meeting.  As the Huffington Post points out, Boeing joined a statement in support of Washington’s ‘everything but marriage’ domestic partnership law in 2009, so maybe the company is simply developing its policy regarding marriage equality in the state.  But this is something to keep a close eye on moving forward, and yet another reminder of why it is so vitally important that DOMA either be repealed or declared unconstitutional by the courts to ensure that married same-sex couples are treated the same as their opposite-sex counterparts.

6 Comments

  • 1. karen in kalifornia  |  November 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

    "It’s really important to stress that this is only one source passing on a comment made in what sounds like a closed-door meeting."

    This may be true but it points to the general ignorance and disrespect of our relationships , legal and not, by the general poplulace out there. They don't recognize our relationships because, even if they are aware of them, "they don't have to."

  • 2. W. Kevin Vicklund  |  November 27, 2012 at 9:23 am

    My understanding of the issue was that DOMA may actively prevent Boeing from offering pension survivor benefits. In fact, isn't that one of the issues in one of the DOMA cases being conferenced on Friday? Trying to remember where I saw that…

  • 3. Steve  |  November 27, 2012 at 10:10 am

    The problem is ERISA. There is one case (Cozen O'Connor v Tobits) that is specifically about that very law. But it hasn't reached the Supreme Court level yet. You can Google for the brief and read some arguments for why DOMA may not apply. ERISA doesn't define spouses either. It just falls back in IRS rules, which then defer to DOMA.

  • 4. Mark Mead-Brewer  |  November 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    This is not just a Boeing issue, there are MANY companies that are doing this exact thing.
    My husband's company refused to allow benefits for DPs or CUs, but would for 'married' couples, but is now "taking another look" because of DOMA.
    DOMA has to go!!!

  • 5. W. Kevin Vicklund  |  November 27, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Right, it was the Cozen case I was thinking of. Thanks!

  • 6. Steve  |  November 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

    DOMA seems to be a convenient excuse. I know for a fact that it's not preventing federal contractors from providing benefits.

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