Gay Boeing employee fighting for better benefits

EVERETT, Wash. -- Washington voters approved gay marriage, but some local companies are still wavering on what the means for their benefit plans.

One Boeing worker is now taking steps to make sure equality spreads through the workplace.

Under the state's domestic partnership law, Washington employers must provide benefits to their employees in same sex relationships. But that doesn't apply to benefit plans regulated by the federal government, and a Boeing employee is now hoping his company will do what he thinks is the right thing when it comes to benefits.

Ken Aphibal has worked for Boeing for more than 5 years.

"I love airplanes," he said. "My father is an aerospace engineer and I'm a second generation SPEEA member."

The only thing he loves more than his job is his fiance, Bennett. The couple has been together for more than three years and they were both elated when R-74 passed.

"We were waiting for the law to pass," Aphibal said.

But he now worries he may be forced to leave the company he has loved working for.

"I've got to question my ability of staying with this company for the rest of my life,because it doesn't seem like they want to support all their workforce," he said.

Earlier this week, Aphibal drafted an online petition urging Boeing to "honor the people of Washington state" by providing survivor pension benefits to married gay employees.

"Because the federal government doesn't recognize same sex marriages, the Boeing company is standing in line that they will not recognize same sex marriages as they would opposite sex marriages," he said.

More than 500 people have already signed the petition, and Aphibal said he's hoping to get 50,000 signatures by December 21.

"I know that there are people out there who really have a great passion to ensure that everyone is treated equal," Aphibal said.

On Thursday, Boeing released a statement about the controversy, saying, "The company is taking a closer look at R-74 and its impact on current policies and benefits once the law goes into effect in Washington state in December. We're studying how any change to our pension plan would impact our growing pension obligations, and we'll continue to discuss it with SPEEA."

Aphibal doesn't want to leave Boeing, but he said he would if he had to.

"I love my fiance more than I love this company, and that makes me very sad to say that if I had to pick I would have to walk away from this company should this benefit not go through," he said.

Boeing officials have said a federal mediator will meet with Boeing and SPEEA to work towards a contract agreement.