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April 12, 2007

domestic partnership benefits between the coasts

HRC take note: here is the voice of middle America on the issue of same-sex partnership benefits. The county where I was born in Wisconsin just voted to extend same-sex partnership benefits for county employees. Now back in November the state voted against gay marriage, at a larger margin for the amendment than Virginia.

The fascinating part of the article is when you scroll down and read the discourse in the wildly unmoderated comments section. Most of it is from the heart, but very misguided and ignorant. Many anonymous commenters against the new contract that extends same- and opposite-sex partnerships to LaCrosse County employees are voicing a lot of basic misunderstanding about the law itself:

- A misunderstanding of the legal aspects of a long-term partnership - that is, proving or providing documentation that you've lived with someone for some time and have shared expenses - that partnership is not just having a roomate;
- A lack of awareness that it is for county employees only and does not extend to private company, state or federal employment;
- Ignoring the preexisting benefits enjoyed by married couples that same-sex couples do not, and cannot, receive legally in the state, leading to the circular argument that unmarried couples should not get benefits;
- Presumption that same-sex partners are unworthy of partnership benefits, or that they are at a higher risk of disease and thus draining the healthcare or benefits pool;
- Ye Olde Argument that because gays are immoral that they deserve no recognition or benefits;
- Equating residency with a pet with residency with a same-sex partner. e.g. a gay human has the same value to them as a cat.

In short, all of the above misunderstandings and biases are very basic points of awareness and knowlege about homos, marriage, and partnership benefits. These basic foundations that relate to the issue of gay marriage, partnership benefits and fairness are lost to a lot of these people - because the knowledge and awareness has not been fed to them through awareness or education campaigns before the legislation has been introduced. From the activists and organizations here in Washington, the cart is often put before the horse.

And frankly, heterosexuals have a right not to get married too, but after a while and shared expenses, should be getting the same benefits as married couples. In the office next door to me is a world-renowned scientist who has a long-term opposite-sex partner, but they are not married for whatever reason. And its their business not to get married if they don't want to. But it is relatively easy for opposite-sex partners to get these benefits with a visit to the justice of the peace, but impossible for most same-sex partners.

Anyway, like I've written before, I think there is a lot of basic groundwork that has to be put down before the general populace between the coasts and outside of major metropolitan areas can grasp the idea of same-sex partnership benefits or even marriage. They don't know us, don't know the difference between the benefits of marriage versus a ceremonial wedding, and are frightened and unnerved by the idea of same-sex unions. Pushing legislation that people don't understand about a group they don't understand is progressive and helpful to gays, but more often premature and damaging.

Posted by jimbo at April 12, 2007 1:46 PM


On this note:
- Equating residency with a pet with residency with a same-sex partner. e.g. a gay human has the same value to them as a cat.-

I just recently heard of a company in the area who is extending pet insurance benefits to their employees. (i'm pretty sure self-same company extends benefits to same-sex partners as well, but I thought that was pretty rad).

Posted by: kiri at April 12, 2007 3:56 PM

Here in the motherland of SF, you'd think all is hunky dorey surrounding such things. Not always so. A few years back when the city proposed covering sex change operations under insurance a lot of the same arguments were made. A big one being it would attract "the wrong people" to civil service and over burden the system. Just plain 'ignunce'. In the 6 years since it passed, only 6 people have actually used it. Oh yeah, what a burden.

Posted by: moby at April 12, 2007 4:50 PM

We're hearing the same things here in Oregon as a bill for domestic partnerships just cleared committee and will be voted on early next week.

Many of those opposed to the bill and voicing this concerns are doing so with the support of their churches who are busing their entire congregations to the hearings. If only the churches helped to educate their sheep as opposed to preaching hate these folks might learn that mo's are not a blight on the earth.

On another note...all State employees here enjoy domestic partner benefits for same and opposite sex couples. The legislature decided that it was descrimination to allow the benefits to same sex partners only...which it is.

Posted by: rodger at April 12, 2007 7:06 PM

I have also felt that the push for gay marriage is premature in many ways. I want civil rights--I don't want or need my relationship to be "blessed in the eyes of God." Sacraments don't mean anything to me--but property inheritance, medical power of attorney in a crisis--these things are a huge deal.

Posted by: Sean at April 12, 2007 9:33 PM

"They don't know us, don't know the difference between the benefits of marriage versus a ceremonial wedding, and are frightened and unnerved by the idea of same-sex unions."

But they do know us. We know that everyone knows and loves someone who is gay...they just don't realize it. I recently heard someone from Iowa on TV talking about something gay related, and his comment was "there's no gay people in Iowa". Ugh.
What's the solution? Being open and honest I guess. But I, myself, am guilty of not doing that at times. It is sometimes easier just to absorb an ignorant comment from someone, without them knowing, so you get a vibe for their true feelings. But then we are contributing to the overall problem of misinformation and ignorance. It's troubling for sure.

Posted by: Mike at April 13, 2007 8:15 AM

Sad to say this Jimbo, but Homosexuals will be the very last group of people to ever get universal equality and acceptance.

I dont expect it to change in my life time. and I plan on living a long time.

"a gay human has the same value to them as a cat."

I place more value on my two cats (Bajor and Teela) than on any human*.

*Rob is not human ;-)

Posted by: Dax at April 13, 2007 11:05 AM

Some day, every gay man will have the right to marry Kylie.

Posted by: Aaron at April 13, 2007 7:55 PM

In Michigan state employees had domestic partner benefits. Now that the marriage amendment passed they deemed domestic partner benefits unconstitutional.

Posted by: Mike at April 13, 2007 9:18 PM

Please, those people can't deal with evolution, 120 years after Darwin, when do you think they'll warm to gay rights? There will never be a "right time" so the time to fight is NOW.

Posted by: Mike at April 14, 2007 3:26 AM

I'm not saying stop fighting for the goal of gay marriage, I'm saying you can't achieve that goal unless you lay some groundwork first. I agree that some of these people will never understand, but I also believe some of these people think this way because they don't know any better, and will one day 'get it'. I guess I have a more conservative approach to the issue than HRC.

Keep in mind that incendiary issues like gay marriage keep the money flowing in to both the gay groups that are pushing for insta-gay marriage and the religious nutbag groups that could be making other positive changes in the world.

Posted by: jimbo at April 14, 2007 4:46 PM

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