On Thursday, a federal judge in Oakland ruled that CalPERS must offer its long-term care insurance program to same-sex spouses and domestic partners of California workers, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Long-term care insurance plans cover extended stays in nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities.
Jeremy Pincus, an employee-benefits expert with the Forbes Consulting Group, said most companies that offer long-term care insurance to workers extend the coverage to same-sex spouses or domestic partners.
Although CalPERS provides many other types of benefits for same-sex couples, officials with the public pension fund said the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevented them from extending long-term care insurance. According to the Bee, the long-term care benefits are tax-exempt under federal law, and that classification would have been in jeopardy if CalPERS extended the coverage to same-sex couples (Kasler, Sacramento Bee, 5/26).
According to attorney Elizabeth Kristen of the Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center, more than 2,600 state workers have sought long-term care insurance for their domestic partners, while 328 workers have sought the coverage for their same-sex spouses (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).
Details of Ruling
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered CalPERS to allow current and former state workers to enroll their same-sex spouses and domestic partners in its long-term care plan. In her ruling, Wilken wrote, "Congress' restriction on state-maintained long-term care plans lacks any rational relationship to a legitimate government interest, but rather appears to be motivated by anti-gay animus" (Leff, AP/ABC News, 5/25).
Reaction to Ruling
Anne Stausboll, CEO of CalPERS, said in a statement, "We have been strongly advocating for the ability to administer our program for same-sex spouses and domestic partners."
Meanwhile, the Alliance Defense Fund -- a group that opposes gay marriage -- said the ruling likely will be appealed. Dale Schowengerdt, the group's legal counsel, said, "This will end up at the Supreme Court at some point, and we're confident and hopeful that the [Defense of Marriage Act] will be upheld" (Sacramento Bee, 5/26).