Starting in July, Washington County, MD, librarian Bill Taylor will receive the same benefits for his husband, Mark Noble, that fellow librarians in opposite-sex marriages get.
Taylor, who has worked at the Washington County Free Library System for four years, married Noble in Washington, DC, in May 2010, a few months after same-sex marriage became legal there. He then asked the county if his spouse could be covered under his health insurance plan. “They said no, but it was just verbal, nothing in writing,” Taylor told LJ. After a court case in Washington County said that two women who had been married elsewhere should be treated as married in Maryland, he wrote “a more formal letter,” which was again denied. Taylor then contacted contacted LBGT advocacy group Lambda Legal for help. Lambda Legal wrote a letter as well, which was again denied, so Taylor and Lambda Legal filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
“And then, in a case of very good timing, the state’s highest court had a case on this issue,” Taylor said. After the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in May that the state must recognize out-of-state marriages, the county changed its mind and granted Noble benefits.
And it’s not just Taylor and Noble who benefit from the change. Washington County will extend spousal benefits to all eligible county employees married to a same-sex spouse, Lambda Legal announced, and offered an additional open enrollment period to allow county employees to apply for spousal benefits. Lambda Legal also sent letters to 20 other Maryland counties asking for confirmation that it is county policy to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, including for benefits purposes.
Taylor told LJ he hadn’t experienced any retaliation or even negative commentary as a result of his decision to fight for his rights. To the contrary, he said, “One of the things I was very pleased about was after the story came out in the local paper I have had eight or ten customers come up to the desk and say ‘congratulations,’ or ‘good for you.’”
Maryland recently legalized same-sex marriage; however a petition drive put repeal of the measure on the ballot for this fall. Regardless of how that turns out, it’s a good thing that the Maryland courts have decided to honor out of state marriages, because Taylor and Noble don’t plan to get married in-state as well. “Twice is enough,” he said. In addition to the couples’ 2010 legal nuptials, “We had a marriage at the Quaker meeting in DC 17 years ago.”
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