Ocala, Fla. - “There is no legal right not to follow state law” was the official opinion of Guy Minter, Marion County attorney, in response to being asked if there are any legal repercussions in denying health benefits to same-sex married couples in which one, or both, are employed by the county.
The issue was brought to Minter by Sheri Wiley, Marion County’s Director of Risk and Benefit Services, after Florida Blue determined it best to redefine the term of “spouse” in order to allow those married to gay and lesbian insured employees the ability to utilize those health benefits as well. However, it was also left up to the insurance providers to follow state law in not recognizing the term’s redefinition.
Florida Blue is the state’s oldest and largest healthcare provider and has approximately 4 million healthcare members, roughly 2,000 of those are employees of Marion County.
Wiley recommended against expanding the coverage to same-sex partners, according to a story by the Ocala Star Banner, as she was concerned about enlarging health care costs in a time when the county is trying to control spending. She also stated that Marion County typically follows state law in the provision of workplace benefits. Wiley was contacted for comment for this story but the calls were not returned.
Wiley is not alone in Marion County as, per the Star Banner, she polled the various agencies under the plan and the idea was immediately rejected.
“From the DOMA decision back in June, [Anthony] Kennedy said this was not a ruling on state law and [Antonin] Scalia held that this would have an effect,” reminded Minter. “Now you have Blue Cross/ Blue Shield using the federal definition and do you now give an answer under federal or state law?”
Minter did mention that this may become an invalid argument if the six couples suing in Dade County are successful in having the state wide ban on same-sex marriage overturned.
“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Minter.