Florida opens health, retirement benefits to same-sex spouses of state workers

Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee.

Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee.

Married same-sex spouses of Florida state employees are now eligible for state coverage for health insurance and retirement benefits.

Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee.

Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee.

The Miami Herald reports that Suzetta Furlong, operations chief of the Florida Department of Management Services, made the announcement in a memo to state agency and university personnel officers and benefit coordinators.

Furlong issued the memo on Tuesday, hours after a federal judge’s ruling striking down Florida’s same-sex marriage ban came into effect — the first tangible signs that state government has accepted that gay couples can be legally married.

Also Tuesday, state retirement director Dan Drake notified Florida Retirement System members they could now include their legal same-sex spouse as a beneficiary for their retirement.

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“This is what our case was all about, affecting the lives of real families and real people in Florida,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which represented eight same-sex couples who sued Florida to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

“It was always all about protecting and strengthening families. Health insurance, pensions, all the things for which opposite-sex couples get married to and enjoy. They are implementing what they’ve been ordered to do,” he said.

The state of Florida employs approximately 162,000 workers.

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