SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Healthcare announced Tuesday it is joining the list of Utah employers offering spousal benefits for same-sex couples, despite the state's stance not recognizing same-sex marriages.
The change opens access to spouse and family benefits for couples who have legally married in states that recognize same-sex marriage, Intermountain Healthcare spokesman Jason Burgess said.
Intermountain made the decision based on decisions such as the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The nonprofit system of 22 hospitals is the largest private employer in Utah and southern Idaho, according to its website.
The new benefit options will be available starting in 2014.
Additionally, the change helps the company stay competitive as more Utah employers begin extending benefits to same-sex couples, Burgess said. Those companies include University of Utah Hospital, ARUP Laboratories, Zions Bank, West Valley City, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.
For Brandie Balken, spokeswoman for Equality Utah, spousal benefits for same-sex couples symbolizes the ability to care for her family. It's also just fair, she said.
"When you say to an employee, 'I'm going to pay for your family's benefits, but not not yours,' you're actually paying one person less," Balken said. "For (Intermountain Healthcare) to remain competitive, not only in recruitment but also in retaining the best talent and the best employees, they really need to offer equitable benefits to their employees."
Since 2004, the Utah Constitution has defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and the state does not recognize other domestic unions as legal marriages.