Thirteen years after it broke ground by becoming one of the first large corporations in the US offering benefits to same-sex couples, General Motors made more trailblazing news this week when it said it will begin treating same-sex couples as married, even if they live in a state that doesn't allow gay marriage.
The policy will level the playing field for gay couples, who still had to jump through some hurdles even with GM's more equitable plan. Couples could access those benefits with an affidavit stating the relationship had existed at least six months and both parties shared expenses. GM spokesman Joe LaMuraglia says that while the domestic partnership plan was put in place to reduce inequality, it was still flawed.
"The federal government didn't recognize the marriages, so they viewed it as imputed income," LaMuraglia told Autoblog. "They'd be taxed on the federal level by about $1,000. It would cost the same-sex couple more."
GM's move was made easier by a decision last month by the Internal Revenue Service, which announced it will begin accepting jointly filed tax returns from legally married same-sex couples even if the state they live in doesn't allow gay marriage. For GM employees, they will no longer be penalized financially for taking those benefits from the company. Legally married gay couples will now be able to list their same-sex partners as beneficiaries of pensions, savings and health care plans. And they won't have to pay the $1,000 or so tax on those domestic partnership benefits.
The move could force some fence-sitting couples to decide on whether or not they want to tie the knot: employees living in states that have legalized gay marriage have a year to get officially married to keep their partner's benefits. Couples who live in states that have not legalized gay marriage can still access domestic partnership benefits.
According to the 2013 Corporate Equality Index released by the Human Right Campaign the automaker already scored a perfect 100 and is considered one of the best places to work for LGBT people. Fellow Big Three automakers Ford and Chrysler also earned perfect scores.