As some may know, in 2007, I elected to take advantage of the earliest possible retirement offered by the State of Connecticut to its managers. Recently, I received a letter from Nancy Wyman, Comptroller of the State of Connecticut. (Nancy is a great friend of the LGBT community and I'm proud to have supported her for many years.)
In part, her letter reads:
Congratulations, as a result of the Connecticut Supreme Court decision you now have the right to choose to get married.
I am writing directly to you because you filed a Domestic Partnership Affidavit with the Retirement and Benefit Services Division of the Office of the State Comptroller. The filing of such an affidavit allowed you to cover your same sex domestic partner and eligible dependent children under the State's pension and health benefit plan.
The domestic partner benefits were established through binding arbitration.. The arbitrator approved the union's proposed provision as follows:
A couple shall be eligible for domestic partner status only if the couple is unable to marry in Connecticut because Connecticut's marriage provision's distinguish between same sex and opposite sex couples. Should eligibility to marry in Connecticut no longer be precluded on the basis of this distinction, the following provision shall cease to be effective on that date, except that coverage for couples having already achieved domestic partner status under the terms of this provision shall cease one year from that date
The arbitrator's award terminates same-sex partners' eligibility for domestic partner benefits as of the date same sex couples become eligible to marry in Connecticut.
As you are currently in a domestic partner relationship, the health and pension benefits currently being provided to your partner will end effective November 30, 2009 unless you marry prior to November 13, 2009 date.
In conclusion, the purpose of this letter is to inform you that the right of same sex couples to marry does impact your domestic partner related health and retirement benefits. You will need to provide your marriage certificate and add your new spouse within 30 days otherwise you will need to wait until the next regular open enrollment period.
So. As a retired state employee with a domestic partner enjoying benefits, we gotta get hitched or else.
The perhaps unanticipated side effect of this turn of events is that it will force some gay state employees who quietly registered their domestic partnerships to more boldly and publicly ratify their relationships via marriage.
I am thinking in particular about gay acquaintances who are employed by the State of Connecticut and will now have to convert their domestic partnerships into marriages or lose benefits extended to their partners. Now that they will need to become married in order to continue those benefits, their families will have to stop living in the comfortable denial afforded by an arrangement that does not involve an actual in-law. I am sure that some of them do not want this to happen. It will constitute an "outing" of sorts.
In my own case, I have become very close to my partner's family. They have always treated me with warmth, respect, and over the years, all the love imaginable for anyone who "marries" into the family. I have never felt the need to be more in-your-face about our partnership. I would put their boundaries above my own (and I know that stance will raise some objections) because of the kindness they have already extended to us over the years.
The predicament is amplified when we consider how to have the marriage take place. We would certainly enjoy giving a good party, but wonder what it would signify. There is the fact that neither of us has ever had any interest in having our union "blessed" by any institution other than the good law firm that is already protecting our rights as a couple.
Anyway, the next "open enrollment" period for changing the status of our benefits doesn't happen until May of 2009, but who knows where we will be living by then, so it looks as if our best bet will be to procure a marriage certificate by the end of this month.
December 2008 marks our 25th anniversary. That's as good a time as any for a quiet town hall wedding. I am happily anticipating the acquisition of a standard anglo last name with easy spelling and pronunciation. Also, neither of us has any appetite to design a ceremony that in any way apes traditional weddings. This is the side effect of having spent a life time creating a partnership without guidance and without a template let alone a temple.
While I am glad to have the right to choose to get married as a resident of Connecticut, I can't help but feel that this will be just another task to wedge into the calendar before I drive south to avoid the worst of winter. The best part? Drafting an announcement for the wedding pages of the New York Times and waiting to see if they judge us worthy. That's the kind of affirmation I'm talkin' about.