March 25, 2015 at 6:00 am EDT | by Steve Charing
Artificial insemination bill advances in Md. Senate

LGBT immigrants, Gay News, Washington Blade, Carrie Evans, Gay Maryland

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A bill that would allow lesbian couples to receive the same health care benefits for artificial insemination as heterosexual couples do passed on Tuesday in the Maryland Senate by a 37-10 vote margin.

Senate Bill 416, sponsored by state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County), would prevent health insurers from excluding benefits for outpatient expenses related to in vitro fertilization, in which the egg is fertilized outside a woman’s body and the embryo is implanted in the uterus.

Currently, insurers are only required to provide the benefit for someone using a husband’s sperm.

This policy has precluded female same-sex couples from coverage.

“It’s all about equality. It’s all about updating our laws,” Kagan said.

The Maryland House of Delegates on Tuesday also passed a similar measure, House Bill 838, sponsored by state Del. Terri Hill (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties), by a 94-44 margin.

“We’re concerned that we correct the law to reflect Maryland’s state on marriage equality,” Hill told the Baltimore Sun. “It was about making sure all Marylanders are treated in an equitable fashion.”

Equality Maryland considers the passage of these measures a major priority of their 2015 legislative agenda.

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, on March 4 testified before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee in support of SB 416.

“This bill does not change current law except to say that current law requiring certain insurance products to provide in-vitro fertilization (IVF) coverage in specified conditions cannot do so in a way that would automatically exclude someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Evans.

“This bill does not ask for any more, or any less, consideration than what is afforded a heterosexual woman who is not able to become pregnant. Current law requires that a heterosexual woman demonstrate a two year history of infertility or an underlying medical condition before insurance provides IVF coverage. This bill would apply the same conditions for a lesbian before coverage is provided. This bill attempts to ensure that all women, regardless of their sexual orientation, are provided with IVF coverage so long as they meet the conditions set forth under the law.”

Evans told the Washington Blade on Tuesday she welcomes the measure’s passage.

“For many years same-sex couples contacted EQMD about being denied these benefits because they were not using their spouse’s sperm for the procedures,” she said. “We vowed to take on this issue when the time was right, and thankfully the time was now. The votes we saw in the House and Senate on these bills are the widest margins and most bi-partisan we have ever seen for a bill relating to LGBT equality in Maryland’s General Assembly.”

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