Same-gender partner benefits approved for benefits plan of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

March 3, 2012

PHILADELPHIA

Same-gender domestic partners of members enrolled for coverage in the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be eligible for spousal and child benefits, beginning January 1, 2013. To qualify, the member must verify that he or she has a civil license or certificate evidencing a civil marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership, The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announced today.

The Board of Directors of the Board of Pensions, the Church agency that administers benefits, voted today to provide benefits coverage to same-gender domestic partners on the same basis as it does for opposite-gender married partners. A special committee of the Board of Directors studied various issues surrounding the matter for more than a year following an urging from the General Assembly, the Church’s highest governing body. The General Assembly urged the Board of Pensions in July 2010 to adopt amendments to the Benefits Plan to extend eligibility for spousal and dependent benefits under the plan to domestic partners of plan beneficiaries.

“We’re deeply grateful to the eight directors who came together as a special committee to consider the General Assembly’s urging,” said Thomas C. Paisley, Jr., chair of the Board of Directors. “Clearly, this is a sensitive issue, not only in our Church but across many communities, both religious and secular.”

The Board of Pensions will formally present its decision later this year to the 220th General Assembly, scheduled June 30 through July 7 in Pittsburgh. No further action is needed; the directors’ vote is binding. Following the presentation to the General Assembly, the Board will begin implementing the plan amendments to ensure coverage of the new participants, effective January 1, 2013.

“The members of the special committee invested more than a year in discernment of this matter,” said Robert W. Maggs, Jr., president and chief executive of the Board of Pensions. “It was a demanding assignment, which they accepted graciously and with the high level of commitment that it required.”

The General Assembly, in urging coverage of same-gender partners, authorized the Board of Pensions to increase employer dues by up to 1 percent to compensate for any rise in costs. The Board determined that a dues increase was not needed at this time, but it will continue to monitor the situation, Mr. Maggs said. Additionally, because there was no immediate dues increase, the Board of Directors did not design a “relief of conscience” mechanism, which would have freed congregations opposed to same-gender partner benefits from having to contribute to costs tied to that coverage.

In addition to the Board of Pensions, the agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are the Office of the General Assembly, General Assembly Mission Council, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Investment and Loan Program Inc., and Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Eligible agency employees receive coverage under the Church’s Benefits Plan.

About the Board of Pensions

The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the corporate body that administers the Church pension and benefits program. It is legally required to administer these programs for the exclusive benefit of its participants and members. The Board of Pensions is governed by an independent, 31-member Board of Directors, nominated by the General Assembly Nominating Committee and elected by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

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