The Supreme Court's decision to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act clears the way for CalPERS to begin offering its nursing-home insurance coverage to gay couples, following a three-year-old legal battle.
The big pension fund sells so-called long-term care coverage to about 160,000 public employees in California, but was prevented from offering the benefit to gay spouses and same-sex partners. Because of DOMA, the program's tax-exempt status would have been threatened if coverage was extended to gay couples.
"We welcome U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which will enable us to properly administer our long term care insurance program for same-sex spouses," CalPERS said in a statement this morning. "CalPERS embraces diversity and w are pleased with this ruling."
The CalPERS case began when Mike Dragovich, a nurse at UC San Francisco's hospital, tried to buy the insurance coverage for his husband Michael Gaitley. The two were married in 2008, before Proposition 8.
Dragovich was denied the right to buy the coverage, and he and several others instituted a class-action lawsuit against CalPERS and the federal government in 2010.
Last year a federal judge in Oakland ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, saying DOMA was an act of "anti-gay animus." But until the Supreme Court ruled, CalPERS couldn't begin offering coverage.
As it happens, CalPERS hasn't sold coverage to any new customers for several years because of financial problems with the program. The pension fund recently raised premium rates significantly and plans to open it up to new customers starting in December, said CalPERS spokesman Bill Madison.