WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. employers offering or planning to offer health insurance benefits to same-sex partners increased by 20 percent in the last year to 4,284, according to a study by the nation’s largest gay and lesbian organization.
At least 712 employers added the benefits from August 2000 through August 2001, according to a "State of the Workplace" study by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. The number of employers offering the benefits has almost doubled in two years, from 2,846 in August 1999.
"We believe employers are bringing their policies into line with the changing makeup of the American family," said Kim Mills, editor of the report.
The number of Fortune 500 companies offering domestic partner benefits has more than doubled in the past three years, from 61 in 1998 to 145 in 2001.
Despite the increased availability, "it may be too soon to tell what, if any, impact we might see from rising health insurance costs and the economic instability," said Daryl Herrschaft, an author of the report.
Starting next year, New York-based Corning Inc. will extend benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners, the company announced last month. Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, said in August that it would offer full medical benefits to same-sex partners who live together. acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift said in August she would extend some domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian state workers.
Employers continued to add sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policies. The study identified 2,001 employers that had written policies covering sexual orientation, an increase of 293 employers, or 17 percent, in a year.
Eleven states, the District of Columbia and 122 cities and counties have banned anti-gay discrimination in workplaces in their jurisdictions.
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