TN government providing benefits to employee same-sex spouses

Tennessee state government is now offering health insurance and other benefits to same-sex spouses of state workers as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling legalizing the unions, reports the Times-Free Press.

While the University of Tennessee made a public splash earlier this week by announcing it was offering the benefits, the move actually stemmed from a Gov. Bill Haslam administration directive issued July 2 in response to the high court’s decision.

The office of Benefits Administration in the state’s Department of Finance and Administration manages insurance benefits for all state employees, higher education employees, including UT, and many local education and local government agencies, spokeswoman Joan Williams told the Times Free Press via email.

Benefits Administration officials have been “accepting and processing insurance applications from same-sex legally married couples” since July 2, she said.

Williams said she didn’t know exactly how many people have applied.

According to the state, applicants have 60 days to apply from the later of two dates: their marriage date or the June 26 date of the Supreme Court ruling. For employees and spouses who married in other states before the Supreme Court ruling, the deadline to apply is Aug. 25.

The Tennessee Constitution previously banned same-sex marriages and refused to recognize lawful marriages of same-sex couples in other states. That constitutional provision was voided by the Supreme Court ruling.

Williams said applications are now being processed according to the “same standards used for all married couples, which includes documentation requirements, notifications, etc.”