Virginia Law on Providing Medical Coverage for Domestic Partners

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Virginia has an interesting history of insurance laws and the dubious honor of briefly being the only state to prohibit employers from extending employee insurance to its domestic partners. As of 2011, Virginia has no law recognizing domestic partners.

Recognition

  • Virginia has a statute defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The state uses this statute and the language in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act to deny recognition of same-sex marriages, domestic partnership, civil unions or any other arrangement that is not marriage as defined in the statute. No city or county government recognizes domestic partners or extends any benefits. No laws or statutes exist granting domestic partners next of kin status, hospital visitation rights or the right to make medical decisions when the other partner is unable.

Arlington County v. White

  • Arlington County briefly offered health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of county employees, extending benefits already available to the husbands and wives of county employees. A group of taxpayers filed a complaint and took the county to court, where the State Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the county had no authority to override the state marriage statute and that, as a result, no employer could offer marriage-like benefits — such as health insurance — to unmarried couples.

2005 Legislation

  • In 2005, the state passed a law permitting private employers to extend benefits to “any other class of persons as may mutually be agreed upon by the insurer and the group policy holder.” Companies have used the law to extend benefits to the domestic partners of employees; domestic partners usually sign an affidavit with the insurance company stating that they are in a committed relationship.

Health Care Challenge

  • President Obama’s 2010 health care reform included a measure to require all Americans to have health insurance by 2014. In 2010, Virginia’s attorney general sued the federal government, claiming that the law was unconstitutional and every American has the right to not have health coverage. In December 2010, a federal judge ruled in the attorney general’s favor, and as of 2011 the case appears headed to the Supreme Court.

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