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Same-sex couples may seek retroactive benefits, other rights

Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage, New Jersey residents who are in same-sex relationships may still face challenges. For example, it is not yet clear whether certain types of benefits will be retroactive.

In two different cases, employees of businesses who denied them same-sex health care benefits have now filed lawsuits against those employers. One woman and her spouse acquired significant medical bills before the legalization of marriage by the Supreme Court forced her employer to recognize her marriage and allow her spouse to be added to her health care plan. She is suing that employer for the previous denial of coverage and is also seeking for the suit to be designated a class action. Another woman in a similar case has been sent into arbitration with her employer.

It is also unclear what the status will be in cases where employers sponsor self-insured health plans. While these plans are not subject to laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found in other cases that denial of benefits to same-sex couples is illegal based on gender discrimination.

In addition to retroactive benefits, there are a number of other issues around same-sex couples that may not be entirely clear yet, such as adoption. While the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage means that same-sex couples should enjoy all of the benefits of opposite-sex couples, in practice, couples may face challenges from family members who disapprove of their relationship, problems with child custody and other issues. As a result, they may want to consult an attorney to discuss their legal status and ensure that their rights are protected. If they have been denied various types of benefits in the past, they might also be able to retroactively claim those benefits. This may be particularly beneficial for people who have accumulated large medical bills or faced other hardships as a result of being denied those rights.

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