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City offers same-sex stipend for taxed health care benefits

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The city that was the first in the nation to offer same-sex marriages may have now become the first to help gay couples cope with the cost of taxes for health benefits that some have called discriminatory.

Cambridge, Mass., is offering a stipend to “city employees in a same-sex marriage who pay federal taxes on the value of the health benefits their spouse receives from the city,” the Boston Globe reported on Thursday.

The stipend is meant to help cover the cost incurred by people in a same-sex marriage who want their spouses covered by their employer's health insurance. That coverage is not taxable income for people in opposite-sex marriages.

Starting July, Cambridge will make quarterly payments to defray the tax that costs same-sex married couples as much as $1,500 to $3,000 a year. The stipend will cost the city roughly $33,000 per year, the Globe reported.

Some private employers, such as tech giant Google Inc., also offer this sort of stipend, but Cambridge is likely the first municipality to do so.

“Having marriage equality yet an unequal tax burden keeps [gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender] married couples on the margins, and marginalization in a lot of ways is seen as a level of discrimination,” said City Councilor Denise Simmons who is gay and was mayor of Cambridge from 2008-2009, the Boston Globe reported.