WASHINGTON -- The University of Pennsylvania is implementing a new policy that will offer benefits to faculty and staff in same-sex partnerships who are forced to pay more in taxes on health coverage than heterosexual married couples.
Same-sex marriage is not recognized under federal or Pennsylvania state tax laws. Therefore, faculty and staff at Penn who cover a domestic partner under one of the university's health care plans must pay taxes on that partners' benefits; the same is not true of a partner in a heterosexual marriage.
Penn's new policy, effective July 1, will help same-sex couples offset these taxes.
The university will provide up to $125 per month (minus applicable taxes) to faculty and staff covering same-sex domestic partners under a Penn medical plan.
"Penn's decision to offer these benefits is important," said Tobias Barrington Wolff, a professor at Penn Law School who has worked extensively on gay rights. He was also the first openly gay tenured member of the Penn Law School faculty.
"Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania have no rights under state law, so tax discrimination can have a particularly severe impact on the ability of Pennsylvania couples to provide for each other and their kids," he said. "[Penn] President [Amy] Gutmann is to be commended for her leadership on what is, at base, a simple matter of fairness. I hope that her peers at universities around the country will follow her example."
Penn joins just a small handful of other colleges and universities who offer these benefits: Syracuse, Bowdoin, Barnard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton.
Columbia, for example, offers an annual $1,000 reimbursement for non-union salaried employees who cover their same-sex domestic partner on their medical benefits plan.
Princeton put its policy in place on Jan. 1, 2012. It provides an estimated amount to offset the extra taxes paid, and the amount is not capped at a certain figure.
Several for-profit businesses -- including Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Google and Microsoft -- have similar policies.
Inquiries to the other Ivy League institutions about whether they would also be "grossing up," as the offset policy is known, were not immediately returned.
Penn employees have until June 30 to add domestic partners to their medical plans.
According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn began offering domestic partner benefits in 1994, becoming one of the first employers in Philadelphia to do so.
This story has been updated with comment from Princeton.