APNewsBreak: Railroads to offer same-sex benefits

GENE JOHNSON

SEATTLE (AP) — The nation's largest freight rail carriers have announced they will provide health care benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees, one day after legally married, gay engineers filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement from the National Railway Labor Conference in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups.

The statement says the carries will provide dependent health coverage to same-sex spouses beginning Jan. 1, even though the conference does not believe it is required by law or by existing collective bargaining agreements.

Two BNSF engineers in Washington state sued the company Tuesday over its refusal to provide benefits to their spouses.