Monday, February 1, 2010

Same-Sex Partner Benefits for PA Court Employees

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that it will extend benefits to same-sex partners of court employees (Scranton Times Tribune). This decision covers about 1,100 elected judges and 1,000 staffers, though it is unclear how many of these employees are currently in a same-sex relationship. The Scranton Times Tribune piece notes that Gov. Rendell has already granted equal employment benefits in the executive branch via executive order.

The opinion piece also stated that Supreme Court Justice McCaffery, "viewed the matter as a civil rights issue."Another report, in the Philadelphia Gay News, quotes Justice McCaffery as saying, "[I] spoke with my colleagues [and we came] to a unanimous decision that this was an equal-rights issue that needed to be addressed immediately.” (emphasis added).

Civil rights? An equal-rights issue? A unanimous decision!? Now, I don't want to read too much into the Justice's comments and I have no idea who the "colleagues" are that reached a unanimous verdict... errr decision... but could we be getting a glimpse into the high court's view of same sex unions?

The Philadelphia Gay News cites a court spokesman as stating that the "policy will apply only to same-sex partners of the employees and will not be offered to unmarried heterosexual couples." Pennsylvania does not currently recognize same sex unions or marriages so such a requirement would defeat the purpose. It is interesting, however, that similarly situated, unmarried, heterosexual couples will not receive these benefits.