Knoxville to extend benefits to same-sex couples

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Mayor Madeline Rogero announced today that the City of Knoxville is expanding its employee benefits to include benefits for qualified domestic partners. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, employee medical, dental, vision and dependent life benefits will be extended to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners. 

"Last year, we expanded our employee nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This change in our benefits ensures that we are treating everyone fairly," Mayor Rogero said. "It will help us attract and retain the best City of Knoxville employees, regardless of their domestic situation." 

City staff created the domestic partnership benefits after researching similar benefits offered by about a dozen other cities and organizations including the governments of Durham, N.C., Covington, Ky., Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis, as well as Maryville College. 

To be eligible for domestic partner benefits, an employee must fill out an affidavit about their committed relationship and show proof of financial interdependence (per criteria outlined in the affidavit). 

Because the change is an administrative one, it does not require a vote by City Council. Employees can begin signing up for 2014 benefits during the city's annual enrollment period, which begins Oct. 23rd. 

Based on the experiences of other cities and organizations, the City Finance Department estimates the new benefits may cost about $60,000 a year, which will be absorbed into the City's current annual benefits budget of approximately $13 million. 

For non-married couples, domestic partner benefits may be treated as taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service. Employees interested in the benefits should research and consider the tax implications. 

Among the other local employers that offer domestic partner benefits are: Alcoa, AT&T, Bank of America, Best Buy, Boeing, Comcast, Costco, EW Scripps Co. (Knoxville News Sentinel), First Tennessee Bank, Home Depot, JC Penney, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Office Depot, Regions Bank, Scripps Interactive Networks, Sears, Sprint, SunTrust Bank, Target Corp., UPS, Verizon, Waste Management, and Wal-Mart (beginning in 2014).

The move makes Knoxville the first large city in Tennessee to extend city medical, dental, vision, and dependent life benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners. Collegedale also extended the benefits.