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Letters supporting benefits for gay couples flood St. Luke's

Published On: Oct 22 2013 06:03:26 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 22 2013 07:00:25 PM EDT

A gay and lesbian rights group wants St. Luke's to give all of its married employees the same benefits.

A gay and lesbian rights group wants St. Luke's to give all of its married employees the same benefits.

The new push comes on the heels of the legalization of same-sex marriages in New Jersey where St. Luke's has a facility in Warren County.

The Pennsylvania Diversity Network says it wants St. Luke's to treat all of its married employees the same, regardless of what their sexual orientation is or the state they live in.

Pennsylvania Diversity Network Executive Director Liz Bradbury will drop off more than 1,200 letters from community members to St. Luke's Health Network's president and board of trustees on Thursday.

"They ask St. Luke's to treat all of their employees who are legally married the same and give them the benefits. Whether they are opposite sex couples or whether they are same-sex couples who are legally married in the same states that have marriage equality," said Bradbury.

In 2011, St. Luke's adopted an anti-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bradbury says the gay and lesbian community was surprised when St. Luke's didn't offer same-sex marriage benefits afterward.

"Now New Jersey has marriage equality and St. Luke's will legally no longer be able to deny that branch of the hospital those benefits," said Bradbury.

St. Luke's Senior Vice President for Human Resources Robert Zimmel released a statement saying "we recently became aware of the decision in New Jersey and are looking into the matter and we always work to do right by our employees."

A St. Luke's spokesperson says any changes would be made network wide.

If St. Luke's does offer same-sex marriage benefits in Pennsylvania, it will join the ranks of PPL, Lehigh Valley Health Network and B Braun.

Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton also provide same sex benefits to city workers.

PPL and Mayor Sal Panto say the cost of same sex benefits has been negligible.

"It doesn't cost any more or any less. We are self insured so we don't pay premiums we pay the actual bill," said Panto.