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Neb. county votes to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees

Neb. county votes to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees

OMAHA, Neb. — Douglas County, Neb., will extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees who were legally married in other states, said board officials who voted Tuesday in favor of the measure.

SourceOmaha, county seat of Douglas County, Neb.
Omaha, county seat of Douglas County, Neb.

The Douglas County Board agreed to change the definition of an eligible spouse so it can include someone who is the same gender as the employee, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The new definition covers all benefits including health insurance.

The county, which is self-insured, will briefly reopen its enrollment period to accommodate the newly eligible spouses. Benefits will begin Jan. 1.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said board member Mike Boyle. “I think it’s the legal thing to do.”

The decision puts the county more in line with the federal government. It issued new guidelines earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

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Board member Clare Duda, the lone vote against the measure, said he wanted the county to be more in line with how the federal government administers the Family and Medical Leave Act. That law indicates a spouse is defined or recognized by the state where the employee lives.

The city of Omaha recently said it would not offer health insurance and dental benefits to spouses of legally married gay employees. Mayor Jean Stothert said such coverage would need to be negotiated in future union contracts. The Omaha police union has filed a grievance in response.

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