Corzine Enters Dispute With United Parcel Service Over Who Is a Legal Spouse

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July 21, 2007


"Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey sent a letter on Friday urging United Parcel Service to provide the same benefits for civil union partners as it does for married couples.

"The letter stemmed from complaints made by a truck driver for the company who has been unable to get health benefits for her partner after they became one of the first New Jersey couples to obtain a civil union.

"...Some companies contend that federal law creates obstacles to providing equal benefits. Some cite the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while many others, including United Parcel Service, refer to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The act, known as 'Erisa,' pre-empts state laws and allows self-insured employers to choose how to define 'spouse.'

"'Erisa doesn't say that companies have to discriminate,' said David S. Buckel, a senior attorney at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is representing Ms. Brazier. 'Their argument is that Erisa gives them a choice. The question is, will they make the right choice?'"