3OYS: Couple outraged by company's opposite-sex partners policy

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The topic of gay rights has been debated for years, and same-sex marriage supporters are seeing progress in their fight for equality.

Rod Thompson said he has never given the issue much thought until his female domestic partner was unable to sign him up for her employment benefits.

"Like, it was disbelief," he said. "Are you kidding me? They can do this? And nobody said anything?"

Thompson has been living with his girlfriend, a U.S. Airways flight attendant, for 10 years. 3TV is not disclosing the name of the woman, who feared she would lose her job for speaking out.

According to U.S. Airways documents, umarried employees can no longer share the company's benefits with their opposite-sex partners.

The company benefit pamphlet states, "Opposite-sex domestic partner coverage is not provided" and "same-sex coverage remains."

"I don't get that," Thompson said. "Either we have to get married or I have to be a homosexual to have insurance with them."

Thompson said they have contacted the airline's human resources department several times for an explanation but feel they have not received a clear answer.

U.S. Airways told 3TV that the policy was approved and accepted by the flight attendants' union through a collective bargaining agreement.

The policy change is scheduled to take effect next year, but many employees noticed the change when they went to enroll for their 2014 coverage.

Is the policy change legal?

Phoenix attorney David Selden said the issue is complex.

Selden, who specializes in employment matters, said in many states where same-sex partners are allowed to marry, company benefits are commonly granted to each partner.

As a result, some national companies like U.S. Airways can choose to offer those same benefits in states like Arizona, where same-sex marriage is not recognized.

"Whatever decision is being made, someone is going to find out and say, 'Hey, this is not the way I would like it,' " Selden said. "But, unfortunately, it's the reality of employers having to deal with a difficult and changing environment."

Thompson described giving benefits to same-sex couples but not opposite-sex couples as "reverse discrimination."

He said if the policy affected same-sex couples, "the sky would fall."

"You know all these groups would get involved," he said. "You know it would be a big deal."