For some time, same-sex partner benefits have been on the agenda of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), which represents over 23,000 engineers and technical workers. But with Washington's new gay marriage law, rising public opinion in support of same-sex marriage, and a new round of negotiations, the union has opened the possibility of a terrible public relations backlash if Boeing does not extend it's benefits package.
Earlier reports said that Boeing had refused to offer the benefits. However, company spokespeople say that it is considering the impact additional benefits will have on "growing pension obligations".
Because of its size, Boeing falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, regulated by the federal government, which operates under DOMA. This means government has no power to force Boeing to offer same-sex partner benefits. However, as we've seen in the past, bad publicity is far more powerful than federal regulation.