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Same-Sex Domestic Partner

Vanderbilt offers the same benefits (health, dental, vision, tuition reimbursement) access to same-sex domestic partners as it does to opposite-sex spouses of employees. The benefits extended to children of employees are also the same (health, dental, vision, dependent tuition). In the event of a serious medical condition with a same-sex domestic partner or the partner’s child, Vanderbilt has chosen to extend the same protections provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Health, Dental and Vision

How to Enroll

  • New employees: use the My VU Benefits Tool. The Benefits Overview has details.
  • Current employees: You can make changes to your benefits during Open Enrollment, usually held in the fall. You can make changes outside of Open Enrollment if you have a qualifying life event, such as adding or terminating a same-sex domestic partnership. Learn more on the Family Status Change website.


To enroll your same-sex spouse for benefits, be sure to choose "spouse" as the relationship when completing the enrollment process.


To enroll your same-sex domestic partner for benefits, he or she must meet these eligibility rules:

  • My partner and I are the same gender.
  • My partner and I are not blood relatives.
  • My partner and I are at least 21 years of age.
  • My partner and I are single, not legally married to anyone else.
  • My partner and I reside in a common household and share responsibility for the household.
  • If my partner has a dependent child(ren) who I plan to add to my health or dental coverage, that child(ren) meets the Internal Revenue Service definition of a dependent.
  • I understand there will be tax liabilities on the benefits in which I enroll my partner (more information regarding taxes shall be provided upon request).

Note that Vanderbilt conducts random dependent audits on all employees. If you are selected for an audit, you will need to verify your dependents' eligibility.

Taxes on Benefits

When covering your same-sex domestic partner on your health, dental and/or vision plans, the portion of the premiums for your domestic partner are taxed and added to the employee’s Federal Taxable Gross Income. This is reflected as a “taxable benefit” in the earnings. The same-sex domestic partner tax is determined by taking the full cost of coverage (employer and employee portion) and subtracting the employee’s portion (and children’s, if family coverage) to determine the premium cost for the domestic partner. This taxable amount includes all health benefits – dental and vision as well.

As long as you have your same-sex domestic partner on your insurance plan, you are taxed on their portion of the premiums.

Other Benefits

  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). You can submit FSA claims for your same-sex domestic partner and his/her dependent children, but your same-sex domestic partner and dependent children should meet the IRS definition of qualifying relative. See Internal Revenue Code Section 152(d) for more information.
  • Retirement Benefits. You may want to update your beneficiary designation. You can make changes anytime during the year. Learn more.
  • Life Insurance. You may want to change your beneficiary designation. You can make changes anytime during the year. Learn more.
  • AD&D. Family coverage can include your same-sex domestic partner. Learn more.


There are some important steps and things to consider when you get married. If you are currently covering your same-sex domestic partner on your benefits prior to the marriage, you will need to contact Human Resources and let them know that your domestic partner needs to be updated as a spouse. Human Resources needs to be notified so that you do not incur any further taxes on your spouse’s benefits.

If your spouse was not covered on your benefits prior to the marriage, then all you need to do is declare a life event on My VU Benefits and add your spouse to your benefits. Be sure to go through the enrollment and make your selections on what type of coverage you and your spouse would like to have with Vanderbilt.

Effective 8/16/2013, the US Treasury and Internal Revenue Service announced that all same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal tax and employee benefit purposes. So, as long as you hold a marriage license from a state that recognizes the marriage, this ruling would be in effect for Vanderbilt employees and you would not have to pay taxes on insurance coverage. You need to notify Human Resources so your domestic partners is updated to spouse on your benefits.

New tax deduction code for same-sex marriage benefits

While same-sex domestic partner benefits are taxed at the federal and state level, same-sex marriage benefits are only taxed at the state level. The new deduction code is only added to state taxable wages to be taxed if that state does not recognize same-sex marriage. If the state recognizes same-sex marriage, this deduction is not added to state taxable wages to be taxes. The deduction code will always be listed, but will not be applied unless there is a state income tax requirement.

For employees working and living in Tennessee: Tennessee does not have a state income tax, so the deduction code will not be applied to taxable wages.

For employees working or living outside of Tennessee: depending on the state, the deduction may or may not be added to the state taxable wages used to calculate state taxes.


Contact the Employee Service Center at 615.343.7000 or email