Domestic Partnership Advocacy on Behalf of Konica Minolta Employee
Ralph Martinelli, 53, and Robert Ryan, 42, have been together since 2004. In August 2005, they registered as domestic partners in the town of Mount Laurel, NJ, where they lived at the time. Ralph is district sales manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS), a global office equipment company, where he has worked for five years. Robert is working as a seasonal tax preparer and looking for a full-time permanent position. They now live in Eagle, Idaho, a suburb of Boise.
Until late 2001, Robert managed the insurance licensing division at Morgan Stanley in New York City. His office was on the 74th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Robert was in his office when the first airplane hit the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, but evacuated safely before the second airplane struck the South Tower, only four floors above where he worked. Immediately after the second plane hit, Robert and a woman he was comforting were trampled by a crowd of people fleeing the area. Also in the confusion, Robert lost track of some of the employees he supervised, and worried for days that they had been killed. The trauma he experienced on that day affected him greatly-he had depression and thoughts of suicide and was unable to concentrate on the job. Eventually he went on disability, using the money he had saved for his retirement to keep afloat.
The couple moved to Idaho from New Jersey in 2007, and Ralph remained with KMBS, securing a transfer within the company to the western sales region. When the couple was living in New Jersey, Robert was eligible for health benefits through KMBS because he and Ralph had registered as domestic partners under New Jersey's system. However, when they moved to Idaho-mainly to escape the constant reminders of 9/11 that still haunted Robert-KMBS cut off Robert's domestic partner benefits. The company only provides domestic partner benefits if the employee shows proof that the couple has registered as domestic partners in the state where they live. Unlike Mount Laurel, New Jersey, where the couple first registered as domestic partners, there are no domestic partner registries in Idaho, making it impossible for the couple to meet the requirements of the policy. (Most corporations that offer domestic partner benefits simply require their employees to submit an affidavit attesting to a same-sex relationship.)
The couple has been purchasing COBRA coverage for Robert since KMBS cut off his benefits, but it is expensive and will only last 18 months, until March, 2009. (By that point, however, the couple says they will not be able to afford it anyway.) While Robert has recovered mostly from the trauma of 9/11, he still has mental and physical health problems that require regular medical care and expensive medications. He may have to go without the care he needs if Konica Minolta continues to prevent Ralph from extending benefits to his partner.