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Teamsters Recognize Same-Sex Marriage


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Teamsters Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

by Doug Windsor 365Gay.com New York Bureau

Posted: September 15, 2005 1:00 pm ET

(New York City) Two Teamsters Locals representing workers at JFK Airport will treat marriages of same-sex couples the same as all other marriages in terms of retirement benefits and coverage.

The decision followed a threatened lawsuit by retired Teamster Dolores Damone, who lives in Suffolk County and married her same-sex partner earlier this year in Toronto.

Damone was turned down when she applied to Local 295/Local 851 Welfare Fund to have her wife, Marie Sardone, included for spousal benefits.

Pensions and benefits for retirees of Local 851 and Local 295 are administered jointly. Local 851 represents office and administrative workers in the airfreight industry at JFK. Local 295 represents air freight drivers, handlers, warehouseman and allied workers at JFK.

Damone’s attorney, Tom Kirdahy, appealed citing a 2004 legal opinion by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer that marriages and civil unions of same-sex couples performed outside the state should be treated as valid marriages in New York State. (story)

Although the opinion was not legally binding the two Teamster Locals reversed their position and informed Damone that Kirdahy would be accepted as a spouse and given benefits that include health, dental and prescription drug coverage.

The Local 295/851 benefits plan also includes a death benefits payment should spouses outlive their partners; access to counseling for mental illness and substance abuse; and, certain breast cancer-related services and benefits.

"This decision ... clears the way for other married gay members of these two Teamsters Locals to receive the same benefits package," said Kirdahy in a statement.

Damone and Sardone have lived together in a committed relationship for more than twenty years. Damone helped raise Sardone’s three children from a previous marriage. All three are now grown and live on their own.

Damone retired with a full pension in 1992 from a freight forwarding company at JFK Airport, where she was the first woman to hold a Lead Agent position on the loading platform. She was a Teamster for twenty-five years and a member of Local 851.

The Teamster decision was hailed by Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest LGBT civil rights organization,

"Every union, every employer, every government entity and every organization in New York that provide benefits and protections based upon being married should follow the law by doing the same,” said Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle.

The New York State Retirement System already recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples wed in Massachusetts or the four countries that have legal same-sex marriage. (story) In April, New York City announced it would recognize gay marriages in all city services. (story)

©365Gay.com 2005


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