Same-sex marriage may be legal in Massachusetts, but only one in three of the state's companies are planning to offer retirement benefits to same-sex couples--even though straight couples receive all of those benefits, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by a national benefits consulting firm and the New England Employee Benefits Council, found that companies are resistant to expanding retirement benefits. In a straight marriage, spouses are entitled to receive the traditional pension benefit or 401(k) portfolio, according to the newspaper.
Why are companies willing to give health benefits and not retirement benefits to same-sex couples? Employer-sponsored pensions are federally regulated under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, which follows the rules set forth by the antigay federal Defense of Marriage Act. That law, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Therefore, some employers are not required to provide the retirement benefits, Andrew Sherman, a senior vice president for the Segal Co., the consulting company that conducted the survey, told the Globe.
Spousal retirement benefits, however, are crucial for same-sex couples, Ellen Wade of the Boston-area law firm Wade & Horowitz told the newspaper. Wade was a plaintiff in the case that led to the gay marriage ruling. For example, if only one spouse in a family with children is working, the other won't have any retirement income if the working spouse dies, the newspaper reported.