The city of Cambridge, Mass., will begin offering premarital blood tests on May 5 to gay couples who plan to wed after the May 17 court-ordered legalization of same-sex marriages. The city public health department will schedule tests for any residents statewide from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 5-6, May 12-13, and May 19-20. "It is our obligation to make these services available to gay and lesbian
couples so they don't experience additional obstacles in exercising their right to marry," Harold Cox, the city's chief public health officer, said in a statement. City clerks across the state will begin accepting marriage license applications from gay couples on May 17. Under the state's three-day waiting rule, couples will not be allowed to marry until May 20 unless they receive a court waiver.
In related news, now that it is about to be legal for same-sex couples to marry, some Massachusetts employers are eliminating domestic-partner benefits for gay workers, requiring them to say "I do" if they want to keep their partners on their insurance. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of the state's largest employers, will drop domestic-partner benefits for Massachusetts residents at the end of
this year, as will Babson College. "The original reason for domestic-partner benefits was to recognize that same-sex couples could not marry," Beth Israel spokesman Jerry Berger said. "Now that they can, they are essentially on the same footing as heterosexual couples."
Employers are not legally required to offer such benefits. Those that do typically require employees and their partner to sign paperwork, in some cases an affidavit, stating that they live together and are financially interdependent. Babson and Beth Israel, most of whose workers live in Massachusetts, will
continue to offer domestic-partner benefits to employees in same-sex relationships who live outside Massachusetts. Both currently offer the benefits to same-sex couples only and have done so for the past decade. Arline Isaacson, cochair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said employers may be acting too soon. A move is under way in the legislature to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages and allow for civil unions, a process that will take at least 2-1/2 years. "I would urge employers to not make those changes until we get past November 2006, or they might unintentionally end up harming their employees," Isaacson said.