The Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage is forcing state agencies and colleges in Georgia to do what they refused to do on their own: grant benefits to gay couples. Even progressive Decatur is figuring out how to be a little gayer.
On Tuesday, the state made it clear to its more than 90,000 employees across Georgia that same-sex spouses are now eligible for all employment benefits – all those benefits they couldn't receive a day before the historic ruling.
When she distributed the info, Sherry Landry, assistant fiscal officer for the General Assembly, offered these paragraphs:
On Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that requires all states to recognize marriages between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed in Georgia or another state. This decision requires states to recognize same sex marriages to the same extent that they recognize marriages between a man and a woman
Governor Deal has confirmed that Georgia will follow the federal law, and Attorney General Olens has instructed state agencies to ensure their practices conform to the law.
This memorandum addresses employment benefits that will now be made available to all spouses of employees of the State of Georgia in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Gov. Nathan Deal doesn't get credit for much when it comes to LGBT equality. But he and Attorney General Sam Olens made it clear that even though they don't agree with marriage equality, they won't defy the Supreme Court ruling. Unlike Texas and Alabama.
The ruling is also prompting UGA and its parent, the University System of Georgia, to offer benefits to same-sex couples. That's something UGA President Jere Morehead rejected in the past.
Same-sex married couples can now sign up for health insurance through the University System of Georgia.
The Board of Regents says it is working to update its plan documents, following the Supreme Court's recent ruling in favor of gay marriage.
According to the USG's website, employees with a same-sex spouse must register their change in marital status by Sept. 1.
Emory, the gayest campus in Georgia, is also "reviewing its current policy" in the wake of the court ruling, according to WABE.
And even Decatur – so gay except where it counts – want to scuttle its domestic partner benefits because gay employees can now put a ring on it, get married and get better benefits.
At Monday's City Commission meeting, officials are expected to discuss dropping the domestic partnership benefits plan that covered same-sex couples who previously couldn't marry because of Georgia’s constitutional ban. The move comes after the Supreme Court ruled in late June that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage violated equal protection and due process under the Constitution.
Assistant City Manager Andrea Arnold says the court ruling makes the separate policies unnecessary.
“Our employees who have partners of the same sex don’t have to be part of a separate program. They can just merge right into the city’s overall benefits program,” she said.
Everyone in Georgia was getting on board with gay marriage before the ruling. Now they are following through. Let's hope Chatham County is next. Elected officials there have been a little scared of their LGBT employees.
Photo by Russ Youngblood