The city of Cambridge, Mass., which is considered by some as a progressive municipality after becoming the first in the nation to offer same-sex marriage licenses, has approved another piece of legislation that is most likely the first of its kind to hit the city coffers.
City leaders agreed this week to start making quarterly payments to public employees that are married to same-sex partners.
The stipend will cost the city, and taxpayers, about $33,000 every year.
City officials said the pay increase will begin in July and was put on the books to defray the cost of what they call a “discriminatory federal tax.”
Currently, employees in a same-sex marriage must pay federal taxes on the value of the health benefits their spouse receives from the city but federal law requires employers to calculate the value of the benefits received by a same-sex spouse as taxable income to the employee.
The federal tax costs same-sex married families as much as $1,500 to $3,100 a year that and those in an opposite sex marriage do not have to pay the tax, city officials said.
Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign, a national lesbian and gay civil rights organization, said Cambridge is the first community to approve this kind of legislation.
“To the best of my knowledge, yes, Cambridge is the first. Nobody else is doing this at this point,” Warbelow said in a recent interview.
It is not unusual for companies in the U.S. to have programs and health-care benefits that financially aid partners of heterosexual employees. Today, hundreds of companies are now extending benefits to the partners of their homosexual employees.
David Smith, spokesman for The Human Rights Campaign, said that the number of U.S. firms offering such benefits has exploded since 1992.
Smith said he feels that the main reason is economic because many companies need to offer these benefits in order to attract and keep employees.
“This is one indicator of the growing acceptance of homosexual committed partnerships as equivalent to heterosexual marriages,” Smith said in a statement.
According to Human Rights Campaign records, there are more than 3,400 private and public employers in the U.S. that provide domestic-partner benefits for lesbian/gay employees.
However, not every taxpaying individual in the U.S is in favor of financial benefits in same-sex marriages.
After U.S. Airways announced benefits for partners of its lesbian and gay employees, Herb Hollinger of the Southern Baptist Convention said, "I can understand from a business point of view. We think it's a commentary on our culture, in which it's basically 'anything goes.'"
In 2004, Cambridge was the first in the nation to offer same-sex marriage licenses. It currently provides health and or dental insurance benefits to the spouses of 22 city and school department employees who are married to a partner of the same sex, according to city Personnel Director Michael Gardner.