Railroads to offer benefits to same-sex spouses

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Associated Press

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 10:01 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — The nation's largest freight rail carriers have announced they will provide health benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees, one day after legally married, gay engineers filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement from the National Railway Labor Conference to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups.

The statement says the carriers will provide dependent health coverage to same-sex spouses beginning Jan. 1, even though the conference does not believe it is required by law or by existing collective bargaining agreements.

Two BNSF engineers in Washington state sued BNSF Tuesday over its refusal to provide benefits to their spouses.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs says providing the benefits only partially resolves the case, because the couples suffered damages this year before being granted coverage.

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