After her partner gave birth to triplets in 1998, Chris Crespo began paying closer attention to the employee benefits offered by her company, major accounting firm Ernst & Young.
“I wanted to make sure that there was coverage for my children,” said Crespo, an accountant who lives in Western Pennsylvania with her partner of nearly 30 years. “And I began looking more at the long-term questions of how I could support the family.”
In 2002, Crespo and others in the company’s LGBT community succeeded in persuading the firm to offer benefits to employees in long-term domestic partnerships. But those benefits came with a cost. Whereas married employees don’t pay taxes on their benefits, unmarried domestic partners do, sometimes to the tune of several thousand dollars a year. And because the federal government and states like Pennsylvania don’t recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, Crespo and many others were essentially penalized for being gay.
Now, as lawyers present their arguments in the second of two historic cases on gay marriage before the Supreme Court, Ernst & Young finds itself among a wide range of private companies with a financial stake in the verdict, partly because of its recent decision to reimburse employees who are forced to shoulder that added tax burden.