At the March 2012 meeting of the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Board voted to extend spousal and child benefits to same-gender domestic partners of Benefits Plan members, as explained in this press release.

The Covenant Network worked before, during, and after the 2010 GA to help accomplish this goal – a matter of equal pay for equal work that affects even more families now that ordination discrimination has been removed from the Book of Order.

The BOP’s action came in response to this action by the 219th General Assembly (2010):

That the 219th General Assembly (2010): 1. Urge the Board of Pensions to adopt amendments to the Benefits Plan to extend eligibility for spousal and dependent benefits under the Plan to Benefits Plan members, their same-gender domestic partners, and the children of their same-gender domestic partners, on the same basis as, and equivalent to, benefits made available to Benefits Plan members, their spouses, and the children of their spouses. 2. Approve an increase in dues for the Benefits Plan of up to 1 percent, effective January 1, 2012, to be allocated among the plans of the Board of Pensions, including but not limited to the Pension Plan, as the Board, in its sole discretion, deems necessary to fund the cost of the additional benefits. Should the Board not implement these benefits for any reason, approval of the increase in dues is rescinded. Comment: That the Board of Pensions be highly urged to provide relief of conscience, to be implemented simultaneously with these actions, for those congregations for whom these actions cause a moral dilemma.

The Board determined that no dues increase is necessary, and therefore no “relief of conscience” is being offered.  The plan amendments approved by the Board involve new definitions of “spouse,” “qualified domestic partner,” and “covered partner.”  The extended coverage will begin January 1, 2013.

We are grateful to the Presbyteries of Boston, New Brunswick, and New Castle for sending the overtures that led to the GA action.

According to the Report by the Special Committee on Domestic Partner Benefits, which followed a lengthy process that included listening sessions and research:

The Special Committee also believes that the Board, in adopting those Plan Amendments, would be acting consistently with its historical efforts to administer the Plan in accordance with the values of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as reflected in the actions of the General Assembly. The resolution adopted by the 219th General Assembly (2010) on Item 18-06 was consistent with long-standing actions by the General Assembly on civil rights and, understanding benefits as part of compensation, consistent with the value of equal pay for equal work.

The 220th General Assembly (2012) will consider overtures in opposition to the action of the 219th GA, but the Board’s decision is binding and does not require approval by the GA this summer.

The BOP has provided more information in question-and-answer form.