Northrop Latest On Domestic Partner Benefit Bandwagon

May 19, 2003 ( - Defense contractor Northrop Grumman plans to join the growing rolls of employers offering domestic partner benefits next year.

According to a Newport News (Virginia) Daily Press report, the company will offer medical, dental, and vision care benefits to gay, lesbian, and heterosexual couples – benefits that traditionally have been limited to married spouses. The new policy won’t yet apply to life insurance, Northrop officials said.

“We want to hire the best employees available,” Bob Bishop, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman in Los Angeles, told the newspaper. “We benchmark our benefits against the industry, and we strive to offer a competitive benefits package. We think this helps us to do that.” Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, the nation’s number two defense contractor, has 120,000 employees around the country.

More and more US employers are beginning to offer domestic-partner benefits to unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples. Separately, a recent study found that the number of US employers offering health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners rose by 16% last year (See More Employers Offering Same-Sex Domestic Partner Insurance ).

Northrop Grumman’s recent purchase of TRW recently spurred things along: TRW had already offered such benefits and Northrop decided to change its own policy rather than TRW’s.

Where it has arisen around the country, however, the movement has been an emotional and political hot button. Here, liberals hailed Northrop’s move as ethically and morally proper, saying Northrop is treating all employees equally and respecting their private decisions and lifestyles.

But conservatives said the new policy, abiding cohabitation and homosexual unions, is another step toward undermining the traditional family and longstanding values. They also questioned how the state of Virginia, which outlaws cohabitation and sodomy and does not recognize common-law marriage, could sanction Northrop’s new policy.

The nation’s biggest defense contractor, Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, announced in December that it would begin offering domestic-partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees. Boeing, another big defense contractor, also offers the benefits, as does General Motors, Ford and Anheuser-Busch.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a Washington-based lobbying group, lauded Northrop Grumman “for adopting policies that are progressive and inclusive of all employees and their families.”

“This will also help the company retain workers who are pioneers and experts in their fields,” Richard Lum, the group’s national chief of staff, told the newspaper.