A Maryland county next month will begin offering spousal benefits to employees who legally married their same-sex partner.
Washington County adopted the policy in response to a complaint that Lambda Legal filed with the Maryland Commission on Human Rights on behalf of county librarian William Taylor in March. He and his partner of 17 years, Mark Noble, married in D.C., in May 2010, but the county’s Department of Human Resources denied Taylor’s application for spousal benefits in spite of Maryland’s recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.
“I’m very pleased that the county will now be treating its gay and lesbian employees, like me, more fairly,” said Taylor in a Lambda Legal press release on Wednesday that announced the new policy. “I love working at the library, but it has always bothered me that my straight colleagues were being compensated a lot more than I was for the same work. Now that’s changed, and it means a lot to me.”
The announcement comes less than a month after the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that same-sex couples who are legally married in other jurisdictions can obtain a divorce in the state.
Baltimore County in December 2010 extended same-sex spousal benefits to county employees after Lambda Legal filed grievances on behalf of two married lesbian police officers whose applications had been denied. The Anne Arundal County Public Schools last July began to offer these benefits to gay and lesbian employees who legally married outside of Maryland.
“We’re pleased that Washington County has joined others in Maryland in respecting the out-of-state marriages of their gay and lesbian employees,” Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, told the Blade.
The new Washington County policy that takes effect next month also coincides with the campaign to defend Maryland’s same-sex marriage law in a likely November referendum.
A Public Policy Polling survey last month found that 57 percent of Marylanders would support nuptials for gays and lesbians in the referendum. The same poll found that 55 percent of the state’s black voters back marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
“We hope all gay and lesbian Marylanders will be able to marry in their own state,” added Sommer.