MA Union Bans Same-Sex Benefits

May 12, 2004 ( - Massachusetts labor union the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 has amended its benefits plan to clarify dependent spouse to mean "a person of the opposite sex."

The move by trustees and administrators of the union’s plan is a preemptive strike against a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declaring gay marriage constitutional in the state, the Boston Globe is reporting. As of May 17, same-sex marriages will be legal in the Bay State (See Massachusetts Court Says Gays Entitled to Marry ).

The six trustees of the electrical workers union benefits package unanimously approved the measure formerly modifying the definition of dependent spouse at a meeting last month without considering amending the plan to include same-sex spouses.

Employee benefits attorney Matt Giuliani, speaking to the Associated Press, does not see any legal issues arising from the union’s move since the benefit plan is covered under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which allows employers to choose whether or not to extend benefits to same-sex spouses. Further, the federal ERISA preempts state regulations.

“Federal law allows the union to decide who’s covered and who’s not,” Giuliani told the AP.