Tiverton, R.I.'s school committee voted this week to grant health care benefits to a lesbian couple married and living in Massachusetts.
Cheryl McCullough, a health teacher and guidance counselor who retired from Tiverton schools in 1997, and Joyce Boivin were married in June in Massachusetts after that state began allowing same-sex marriages. A few days later, McCullough asked that her benefits be extended to Boivin. The women live in Swansea, Mass. Gay marriage is not allowed in Rhode Island, but state attorney general Patrick Lynch has indicated the state would honor such unions performed elsewhere.
Tiverton school officials initially asked a superior court for an opinion on how to proceed. This week they said they would drop that request because of Lynch's advisory opinion in October that two retired Portsmouth teachers now living in Massachusetts can seek survivors' benefits for their same-sex spouses. "The attorney general sent a pretty clear message that same-sex marriages of other states are not barred by public policy in Rhode Island," said Stephen Robinson, lawyer for the Tiverton School Department.
The state treasurer's office said in the Portsmouth cases, survivors' benefits were granted to one of the women who applied. The other, also a retired teacher, was not eligible based on issues unrelated to her marital status. Marisol Garcia, spokeswoman for the treasurer, said the Tiverton case was never presented to the treasurer's office. (AP)
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