Pennsylvania Courts Enact Domestic Partner Benefits for Staffers

Nearly 2,000 Pennsylvania court officials and their staffers will be eligible for domestic-partner benefits on March 1, thanks to a new policy instated by the state’s Supreme Court.  The policy, announced to through a memo with their paystubs,  allows partners of gay and lesbian judges and staffers  to be “included on the medical, dental, vision and prescription-drug plans currently offered to married heterosexual couples,” reports the Philadelphia Gay News. “The Supreme Court has given this subject considerable review over a period of years and concluded that, as a matter of equality, providing these benefits was appropriate for same-sex couples,” Art Heinz, communications coordinator at the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, said in a statement. “Same-sex couples are uniquely affected by their inability to obtain healthcare coverage, so this was something the court deemed to be appropriate.” The idea of granting partners of gay and lesbian staffers domestic-partner benefits was introduced years ago, Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey, said. According to the Philadelphia Gay news, Justice McCaffrey said: “I thought about it and somebody in the city’s sanitation department, or any other city worker, has access to medical coverage for their same-sex partners, but a judge does not, and that struck me as odd,” he said. “So I went back and spoke with my colleagues about that and we embarked on about 18 months of dialogue and research and come to a unanimous decision that this was an equal-rights issue that needed to be addressed immediately.” Currently only a handful of court systems offer domestic-partner benefits, namely California and Illinois.