A gay couple who were forced to live apart for nine months because one of the men did not qualify for his employer's "trailing spouse" policy--which allows employees to relocate to another office when their spouse's job forces a move--are finally moving on with their lives together following a settlement of their lawsuit on Wednesday. The gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced the settlement between the United Parcel Service and Daniel Kline, who has worked for the company for more than two decades. In August, Lambda filed the lawsuit in California state court after Kline was forced to live apart from his partner of 27 years, Frank Sories. In January 2003, Sories was transferred from San Francisco to Chicago by his employer, United Airlines, when its office in San Francisco closed. Kline applied for a transfer to UPS's Chicago branch under the company's "trailing spouse" policy to accompany Sories. But UPS rejected Kline's transfer because the men were not considered legally married spouses. UPS now has agreed, however, to provide the same job relocation benefits to employees in domestic partnerships as it does to its married employees.
"Today's settlement tells employers across the country that they must give all their employees equal access to benefits," said Jon Davidson, a senior counsel for Lambda. "By limiting benefits to only married couples, UPS was discriminating against its employees who couldn't marry their partners. The initial policy was designed to keep families intact, but it did not address the needs of all families. We are confident that with the new policy in place, no one working at UPS will be denied these benefits because they are barred from marriage."
Just hours after the lawsuit was filed last year, UPS released a statement saying it had changed its policy to include domestic partners and that Kline's transfer application had been approved. However, UPS did not follow through on its so-called policy change, and Kline and Sories were forced to continue living 2,000 miles apart. In the days immediately after the filing, several hundred Lambda members signed on to written petitions urging UPS to change its policy and treat its lesbian and gay employees equally. Said Kline and Sories on Wednesday: "After 27 years together we were unexpectedly and needlessly separated. Today is a great day for us. We can finally put our forced separation behind us and look to the future together, side by side."