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Domestic Dispute

The debate over benefits for same-sex couples heats up.

This story appears in the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Providing benefits to same-sex couples is on CEOs' radar: A study by the Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign found there was an 18 percent increase last year in private employers, colleges and universities offering domestic partnership benefits. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer them. Employers are responding to the marketplace, says Kim Mills, education director of the Human Rights Campaign and co-author of the study. "A lot of employers are seeing that American families are not Ozzie, Harriet and the boys anymore."

Nearly 4 million unmarried same-sex couples lived together in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But couples can't access their partners' COBRA, 401(k) and Social Security survivor benefits. And they pay additional federal income tax on the benefits they do receive. "It's unfair," says Justin Nelson, co-founder of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a Washington, DC, grass-roots advocacy group.

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