Gay Couple Loses Benefits With Move
Jessie Bonner / Associated Press
May 05, 2008
EAGLE, Idaho (AP) — What they didn’t know before moving to Idaho could fill a house, and in many ways it does.
The kitchen table holds stacks of legal papers. Medication bottles litter a nearby countertop. The two-story home Robert Ryan, 42, shares with his partner, Ralph Martinelli, 53, overlooks a quaint suburb west of Boise, a rural landscape of ruddy hills that doesn’t seem quite as welcoming as it once did.
A 2,400-mile move west once seemed like a chance at a fresh start, has instead it has delivered some hard lessons, especially about moving from a state that recognizes same-sex unions to one of the 21 states that don’t.
The couple was stunned when Ryan was dropped from the company insurance plan the two shared in New Jersey, where they were able to register as domestic partners. Idaho does not formally recognize same-sex couples.
“It didn’t even dawn on us that this would have an impact,” Ryan said.
Ryan and Martinelli met four years ago when Ryan was out of work and battling depression he developed after surviving the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Ryan worked on the 74th floor of the south tower and escaped after the north tower was struck first. Six of the 20 employees he managed at Morgan Stanley were killed.
A year after they started dating, they registered as domestic partners in New Jersey. Martinelli was told he could insure Ryan under his policy as a Konica Minolta Business Solutions sales manager.
Ryan used the policy to pay for medication to treat his depression, anxiety and the childhood asthma that resurfaced from severe smoke inhalation in the attack.
But he was dropped from the policy last October, shortly after the Konica Minolta company found the couple had moved to Idaho, where they couldn’t register as domestic partners. In 2006, 63 percent of Idaho voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of of a man and a woman, effectively outlawing same-sex unions.
Martinelli is still covered by a COBRA policy through the company. Ryan now pays $650 a month for a separate COBRA insurance policy that will expire in March 2009.
“It’s ridiculous,” Ryan said. “It’d be like a married couple being forced to get remarried every time they moved.”