PLATFORM/Domestic partner benefits
More than 100 local governments have made the often controversial decision to extend benefits — such as medical and dental insurance, and pension benefits — to employees’ domestic partners. American City & County recently asked readers of its e-mail newsletter if city and county governments should offer benefits to domestic partners. A solid majority of the respondents said they should. Two responses, one in favor of benefits for domestic partners and one opposed, are reprinted below.
“Absolutely, city and county governments should offer equal benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners as they offer to married couples. Otherwise, they should eliminate benefits for spouses. The issue is one of fair treatment under the law. From a practical perspective, bureaucrats and legislators need to ask themselves why benefits are offered to family members and partners in the first place. If the purpose is to promote a feeling of security in employees, why is one’s sense of security valued more than the other’s? On the other hand, if spousal benefits are offered based on custom or tradition alone — for example, if they are based on the relatively small percentage of American households that fall into the mid-century model of the unemployed homemaker-mother and breadwinner-husband — then the government has a responsibility to its constituents to become more contemporary in its actions.”
— Dean Whitehead, mental health analyst, Los Angeles County, Calif.
“Benefits absolutely should not be extended to domestic partners. Benefits should only be extended to those who are related by blood or a legal marriage contract. This is the only enforceable criterion available. Any other policy awards benefits on the word of the employee alone and increases costs for benefits that already are under siege for being too expensive.”
— Roger Buffington, utility supervisor, Environmental Protection Services Department, Grand Rapids, Mich.
(To read more about domestic partner benefits, see “Who should reap the benefits?” on p. 64.)