Monday, August 31, 2009

...or Actually a Qualifying Event

I just got off the phone with a woman from Amy's employer's HR department. Normally I don't take calls for Amy, but when I tried to take a message, the woman started telling me details and specifics so I ended up talking to her about the whole situation. And she was awesome.

Amy can get off the insurance at her employer. Apparently the man Amy talked to before didn't know that same-sex partnerships do qualify to get off insurance, as long as the employee is starting on another insurance.

Here's a few little paraphrased snippets of the conversation:
HR: "So this is her husband, right? Is he wanting to get on her insurance or is she wanting to get on his?"
Me: "Actually it's a domestic partnership. She's going to be starting on my employer's insurance tomorrow."
HR: "OK well she has 30 days from the date of the event."
Me: "Is the event the domestic partnership or the date of benefits starting?"
HR: "Is this a common law or same-sex partnership?"
Me: "Same-Sex."
HR: "Hmmm. That's a really good question. Since federal law does not recognize same-sex partnerships and unfortunately we follow federal law, I believe it's the date of the start of the new benefits."

The whole conversation was awesome, the woman was friendly, informative, admitted when she didn't know an answer to something (and found the answer), and even said, "Tell her congratulations!"

Congratulations Amy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Non-Qualifying Event?

As I was leaving work today, I checked my text messages and saw this:
"So getting domestic partnered doesn't count as a qualifying event for me for health insurance. WTF."

When I got home, Amy was upset. She called the HR department at work so she could get off her crappy insurance (since she was getting on mine), and apparently he was a jerk. When she told him she needed to make a change because of a domestic partnership, he told her she couldn't, because, "It has to be a legal marriage." Yeah, he emphasized the legal. And Amy was hurt. She didn't know what to say, so she got off the phone. She's planning on calling back on Monday.

I don't know what to say about this. I hope that this can get resolved, because paying for 2 insurances doesn't make sense, especially since Amy's insurance through her employer costs twice as much per pay-period and has less coverage than mine.

Looking forward to Monday, when Amy calls them back and is more prepared to take on the man.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Benefits Enrollment

I just got done speaking with an HR representative at my employer. Let me say - she was awesome! I turned in my forms, and she didn't even skip a beat when referring to my partner. When she realized that I was enrolling a domestic partner instead of a spouse, she had to explain the different taxation process. She was surprised I knew anything about it! Apparently most same-sex partners she's enrolled were clueless. People - educate yourselves!

I'll have to wait till my first paycheck to see how this actually works and the different dollar amounts, but this is pretty much what it's going to look like: the approximately $97 that my employer pays each pay period (or maybe each month--I forget what she said) for Amy's benefits will be considered my income, which means I'll be taxed on $97 dollars a paycheck that I didn't actually earn. Amy's portions of our insurance premium (about $30 a paycheck) will be a post-tax deduction--yeah I said POST-TAX. I wonder if tax protesters/tea-baggers know about this? I wonder why they're not protesting the extra taxes same-sex partners have to pay...

Once I get my first paycheck after being benefitted, I'll have to compare paychecks to see how much extra I'm paying in taxes with my "extra" income that I'll never see. Until then, I'm grateful that the HR representative was so informed, informative, and friendly, and I'm grateful that Amy and I are going to have benefits soon!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Domestic Partnership - Day 1 Reflections

Looking back at today, I find it really hard to not be cynical about the process of getting and being domestically partnered. To begin with, even the officers at the Civic building thought the domestic partner/marriage disparity was a little silly. When we got to the Clerk and Recorder's office, we had to go to a separate window than the marriage certificates, and the marriage certificates had a counter that was at least twice as long as the Clerk and Recorder window. We were in an out in less than 20 minutes, yet the couple that was at the marriage counter when we arrived was still there when we left. We only had to answer one question, where married couples had to fill out an application (and who knows what else).

One thing that really gets me is the blatant and open discrimination in this entire process. On the City of Denver's Clerk and Recorder's website on Domestic Partners, it states: "
What Registration Does: Registration of your committed partnership creates a public record of your relationship. Based on your attestation, it proves that you have met the requirements for committed partnership defined by ordinance that an employer or other party may or may not choose to recognize in offering domestic partnership benefits. What Registration Does Not Do: Registering as committed partners does not constitute marriage under the laws of the State of Colorado nor change your legal rights with your partner. Registration does not affect your property, contract, inheritance, custody, or benefit rights nor any other legal entitlements. It does not provide for name changes. To provide for such rights domestic partners may need to execute medical and/or general powers of attorney, wills, and/or other legal instruments, just as though there were no partnership. Consult your attorney." On the "Certificate of Committed Partnership," it states, "...we understand a committed partnership is not a marriage...".

Between the separate and unequal windows, forms, and language, I really felt today that the City of Denver and the State of Colorado was saying, "Hey, we'll recognize your relationship, but it's not worthy of having the same legal benefits as your opposite-sex coupled peers." And what's worse, we had to sign a legal document agreeing with this.

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful we got the opportunity to domestically partner. I am greatful I have an employer that offers same-sex domestic partner benefits. I am grateful that I live in a time where our relationship does not have to be completely hidden (unless we're around conservative relatives, in small towns, or in various other not-safe-for-queers social situations). I am grateful that I had a supportive environment that allowed me to come out at such a young age compared to the generation before mine. But separate is not equal. Separate windows, separate certificates, separate paychecks with separate taxation, separate separate separate is still not equal.

We Did It!

Amy and I are officially domestically partnered in the City of Denver and the State of Colorado! Here's how it went:

Amy picked me up from work, and we went to the Clerk and Recorder's office in the beautiful Webb Municipal Building downtown.

As we went through the metal detectors, we asked the officers where the Clerk and Recorder's office was and they pointed us in the right direction. As we were walking away, we could overhear them talking about the need for domestic partner registration, since it didn't really provide for much in terms of legal protections in the state of Colorado. Amy and I looked at each other, smiled, and a part of me couldn't help but agree with them. To be honest, they were right. There was really no need for us (in the legal sense) to register as domestic partners aside for the need for Amy to get on my health insurance. But we took the plunge.

There were a few other couples in the Clerk and Recorder's Office. We signed in and were called immediately to a separate window from the "Marriage License" counter ("separate but equal is not equal" kept crossing my mind). The woman at the window (I think it just said "Clerk and Recorder" above it, but I could be mistaken) was friendly, asked us if we were in any other domestic partnership or marriage with anyone else or in any other state, asked us for our ID's, and printed up a document for us to sign. Once we signed the "Certificate of Committed Partnership," a copy for the Office, and the Deputy signed both documents, we were official!

We went to Gaycine's (Racine's) to celebrate! Where else in Denver would a newly domestically partnered couple go to celebrate their Domestic Partnership?