Virginia, where APA's headquarters is located, gave gay-rights and other
activists a rare victory in February when it passed a law undoing its status
as the only state that prohibits businesses from offering health insurance to
domestic partners of employees.
The vote came during a brief legislative session in which state lawmakers
passed several pieces of legislation to limit the rights of gay and lesbian
The bill passed in large part because it never mentioned gay people. The
legislation, titled Health Insurance; Coverage for Certain Persons (SB 1338),
was presented as being a business-friendly move rather as a civil-rights
The bill allows health and group accident insurance to be offered "to
any class of persons as may mutually be agreed upon by the insurer and the
APA is the group policyholder in the case of its insured employees. It was
one of several companies and organizations that argued in favor of the change
in Virginia law.
APA was distressed to learn when it moved to Arlington, Va., in December
2002 that it had lost the ability to continue allowing its employees to add a
domestic partner to their health insurance coverage.
APA testified before a Virginia House of Delegates committee last year
after the bill's original introduction (Psychiatric News, March 5,
2004). The House of Delegates passed the 2004 bill by one vote—as it did
again in February—but the earlier version died in the state Senate when
the session ended without a vote on the bill.
When APA learned that the bill had been reintroduced, Medical Director
James H. Scully Jr., M.D., sent a letter to Sen. William Wampler, chair of the
committee with jurisdiction over the bill, strongly urging him to support the
legislation. As other supporters of the bill had been doing, Scully emphasized
the business arguments, noting that the Virginia regulation barring employers
from offering domestic-partner benefits "took away a key benefit we use
to attract and retain good employees.... From a business perspective, we are
now at a competitive disadvantage to professional associations in
[neighboring] Maryland and Washington, D.C., that are able to offer such
Scully also emphasized that "APA has been hindered by unwarranted
government intrusion into how it competes in the employment
marketplace"—a statement that in all likelihood resonated with
Virginia's extremely pro-business legislature. Passage of the bill, he said,"
is good for business, good for the [state], and good for Virginians and
The text of Health Insurance; Coverage for Certain Persons is posted