Same-sex Royal Oak couple fights for equal benefits

By Roger Weber - Reporter

ROYAL OAK, Mich. - Stephanie Citron and Beth Gardiner of Royal Oak are legally married and raising a daughter.

Citron is a deli clerk at a Kroger in Bloomfield Township. She tried to put Gardiner on her health insurance plan.

"I have a legal marriage. She's my legal spouse. Why would I think that it's anything different?" said Citron.

However, it was different. The health plan provided by the company and the workers union restricted dependent spouses to the opposite gender.

"It was devastating to me because I never thought of myself as different. I don't do labels," said Citron.

The women married on March 22, 2014 during a narrow window between rulings by the U.S. District Court and the appellate court. Still, no insurance for Gardiner.

"They basically stonewalled everything we tried to do as far as sending in the paperwork," said Gardiner.

This week, the opposite sex language was dropped from the health plan. That cleared the way for Gardiner to be covered. Still, their attorney Dana Nessel is filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"We don't know how many companies might have health and welfare funds with some other clauses. Literally, there could be hundreds of companies out there that define spouse the same way," said Nessel.

Though their marriage is valid, the couple is anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, which could come as early as Friday.

Complete Coverage: Same-sex marriage ban in Michigan

"We're equals. We're human," said Citron.

Local 4 reached out to Kroger and the workers union but receive no response. The couple is in the process of a second-parent adoption for the child.

Copyright 2015 by ClickOnDetroit.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.