Orchestra improves benefits for same-sex couples

Gay and lesbian employees of the Minnesota Orchestra will no longer have to pay higher costs than their heterosexual colleagues to purchase health benefits for same-sex partners. The orchestra's management and its musicians' union recently signed an agreement that includes equal benefits for homosexual and heterosexual couples. The benefits will also extend to non-union employees.

Although the orchestra extended eligibility for benefits to same-sex partners several years ago, says Minnesota Orchestra spokesperson Karl Reichert, gay and lesbian couples have typically had to pay a higher percentage of the benefits cost than straight couples.

Deborah Serafini, a violinist who has played with the ensemble for 21 years, has long been a vocal proponent of extending benefits to same-sex couples. She points to the New York Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra as examples of other musical groups that have granted domestic-partner benefits to partners of gay employees.

"I almost didn't expect that it would happen," says Serafini, who is openly lesbian and who first raised the issue of same-sex coverage at the orchestra in 1990. "Even though I'm currently partnerless, I feel gratified. I feel for the first time in years that I'm a full member of the orchestra. It's been a long time coming."

 
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