Legislation intended to put lesbians on a par with straight couples on health insurance coverage for advanced fertility procedures has passed both the Senate and the House.

The Senate passed the measure Tuesday morning 37-10, following House passage the night before on a 94-44 vote.


The bill would apply Maryland's existing mandate for state-regulated insurers to provide coverage for in vitro fertilization treatments to same-sex as well as opposite sex couples. Previously lesbians were excluded because the 2000 mandate called for the use of the husband's sperm for the couple to receive coverage.

The existing law also requires the couple to show a two-year history of sexual intercourse without pregnancy to become eligible for in vitro coverage, under which the egg is fertilized outside the woman's body and then implanted in the uterus. The current bill allows lesbians to substitute a two-year history of failure to conceive after six artificial insemination attempts.

The Senate and House bills were amended to be identical, reflecting a compromise reached between proponents and insurers. Once one chamber passes the other's bill, the legislation will go to Gov. Larry Hogan. His office said he is reviewing the legislation.

Proponents of the in vitro legislation argued it was granting same-sex couples equal rights to have their infertility treatment covered by insurance as hetero couples.

"These are policy holders paying the same rates and getting unequal coverage," said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery Democrat. The Attorney General's Office has warned the state could be sued if it allowed different treatment for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Opponents claimed the legislation stacks the deck in favor of same-sex couples.

Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, argued that the provision allowing same-sex couples to use donor sperm for in vitro fertilization gives them an unfair advantage over opposite-sex couples who must use the husband's sperm.

"That doesn't sound like equality to me," he said. Simonaire also objected to the legislation because he has an underlying opposition to the fertility procedure. The procedure usually winds up implanting only one of several fertilized embryos, and Simonaire regards the discards as viable lives.

Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat, noted that while in vitro would be paid for by insurance, lesbian couples would have to pay out of pocket for any genetic material they acquire from a sperm bank.