December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria extends benefits to same-sex couples

ELYRIA — City employees in same-sex married relationships are now allowed to apply for health benefits for their spouses under a change made effective May 1.

Marriage among same-sex couples remains illegal in Ohio, but it is permitted in other states.

But if an Elyria employee so wishes to travel to a place where such unions are legally performed — like New York or Illinois — than the city will honor that marriage and allow the employee to enroll their spouse in the health insurance program, said Richard Jackson, the city’s assistant safety service director in charge of human resources.

“We would start working on it for anyone and the same eligibility and enrollment requirements like birth certificates and a marriage license would be needed,” Jackson said. “To us, it would be a very nominal increase in expenses.”

Jackson said one employee has already enrolled a spouse.

Elyria is not the only city to take this step.

Cleveland, Akron and Cuyahoga County also offer benefits to same-sex couples.

“We’re sort of late to the game,” Jackson said. “We started looking into this a year ago. There were some legal concerns, but never any moral concerns.”

The city is a self-funded insurer, meaning it pays the full claims of its employees and their dependants. Both employees and the city contribute to the health fund each year and it is administered through a third-party insurer.

The city offers a financial incentive for employees whose spouses elect to take health insurance, if offered, through their employees. Same-sex couples will be eligible for the same incentive, Jackson said.

“It will be the very same benefits and incentives we offer other married couples,” he said.

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Lorain only offers traditional spousal coverage.

“Until the law on same sex marriage changes, I don’t see us getting them,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.