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Sep 6, 2014

Winston-Salem Provides Benefits to Married Same-Sex Couples

Winston-Salem, N.C. (September 6, 2014) – Winston-Salem is believed to be the first North Carolina city to recognize legally-married same-sex couples for the purposes of city employee health benefits.

In a letter to city employees on Aug. 28, Winston-Salem’s human resources director, Carmen Caruth, said the city would recognize all legal marriage licenses from any state or other U.S. jurisdiction, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Employees are now eligible to enroll their spouses and children in all city employee benefits.

While other municipalities have provided domestic partner benefit programs to same-sex spouses for some time, none have gone as far as Winston-Salem, accepting same-sex couples married out-of-state as married spouses for the purposes of employee benefits.

“This means that if you are currently married to someone of the same sex, and have a valid marriage license from any state or U.S. jurisdiction, you can enroll your same sex spouse and children in all city benefits …” Caruth told employees in the letter, according to The Winston-Salem Journal, which broke the story.

Winston-Salem currently does not offer domestic partner benefits to unmarried couples. City Council members were expected to consider these benefits during a meeting on Tuesday.

City Manager Lee Garrity told The Journal that the change was put into effect after receiving advice from Angela Carmon, the city attorney. “What the city attorney indicated was that she felt comfortable with us going ahead and covering any marriage where there was a marriage license,” he said. He also added that in the face of the new policy he would argue against domestic partnership benefits "if the council still wants to go down that route."

Meanwhile, legally married couples regardless of gender can enroll their spouses during a special enrollment period ending Oct. 31.

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