In what is believed to be a national first, the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts will as of July begin granting a quarterly stipend to city employees in same-sex marriages that are not able to access the same benefits as fellow married heterosexual workers due to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions and granting marriage rights and benefits.
Beginning in July, the city will begin paying quarterly stipends to city employees in a same-sex marriage who must pay federal taxes on the value of the health benefits their spouse receives from the city.
Federal law requires employers to calculate the value of the benefits received by a same-sex spouse as taxable income to the employee, but health benefits for opposite sex spouses of employees are not taxable.
The city, which in 2004 was the first in the nation to offer same-sex marriage licenses, currently provides health and or dental insurance benefits to the spouses of 22 city and school department employees who are married to a partner of the same sex, according to city Personnel Director Michael Gardner. The stipend will cost the city an estimated $33,000 per year once it is fully implemented.
While it is believed that Cambridge is the first city to offer this break, individual companies have been doing so for a while now including Google, Facebook and Barclays which have all moved to “gross up” pay for employees in same-sex marriages who are denied the federal tax breaks their married straight workmates enjoy.
The government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships per the Defense of Marriage Act means that same-sex partners (and heterosexual partners in domestic partnerships) are excluded from around 1,138 benefits and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples enjoy.
In 2009, analysts for the New York Times calculated that not having access to the 1138 benefits that marriage grants heterosexual couples could cost same-sex married partners between $41,196 and a staggering $467,562 over a lifetime.