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EMPLOYEE BENEFITS & MUNICIPAL REGISTRATION FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES:

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Sponsored link.

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Same Sex Benefits in the Workplace:

It is not unusual for companies in the U.S. to have programs having health-care benefits to the partners of heterosexual employees. Some are now extending them to the partners of their homosexual employees as well; this is one indicator of the growing acceptance of homosexual committed partnerships as equivalent to heterosexual marriages.

David Smith, spokesman for The Human Rights Campaign said that the number of U.S. firms offering such benefits has exploded since 1992. 1 He feels that the main reason is economic: many companies need to offer these benefits in order to attract and keep employees. 

Studies have shown that these extended programs are not costly. Fewer than 1 percent of employees in a typical company opt for same-gender partner benefits. The percentage of employees who are gay or lesbian and in domestic partnerships is estimated to be considerably higher. But most of their partners are employed and thus may already have their own benefit plan.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2 as of mid-2000:

bullet3,400 private and public employers in the U.S. provide domestic-partner benefits for lesbian/gay employees.
bulletIn 2000-JUN, the big three automakers (Daimler-Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Corp.) announced that they would extend benefits starting 2000-AUG-1. 
bulletOn 2000-JUN-22, the Coca-Cola Company announced that it will extend benefits on 2001-JAN-1.
bullet99 companies out of of the 500 largest companies in the U.S., as listed in the Fortune 500 gave these benefits. This includes six of the top ten companies: General Motors, Ford, IBM, Citigroup Inc., AT&T and Boeing. (15 months later, in late 2001-SEP, the number had grown to about 165.) 7
bulletOther large companies which provide domestic-partner benefits are: American Express, American Airlines, Amoco, Avon, Barnes & Noble, Chevron Oil, Clorox, Coors Brewing, Disney, Eastman Kodak, Gap, General Mills, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Levi Strauss, Mattel, Microsoft, Nike, Nynex, Pacific Telesis, Pillsbury, Proctor and Gamble, Quark, Reebok, Shell, Starbucks Coffee, Sun Microsystems, Time Warner, United Airlines, US Airways, US West, and Xerox.
bulletVery few companies have rescinded their extended benefit program:
bulletPerot Systems Inc, headed by former presidential candidate Ross Perot, did in 1998. 
bulletAt the time of the Exxon-Mobil merger, 1999-DEC-30, Mobil's domestic partner benefits program was discontinued.
bulletThese benefits have become very common within certain economic sectors, including computers, movies, airlines and oil companies. 3

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Sponsored link:

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Reaction from conservative Christian groups:

At first glance, it would seem surprising that conservative Christian ministries and denominations would oppose health benefits for same sex partners. These groups have long been opposed to promiscuous behavior, and one of the best way to encourage monogamy is by promoting marriage, common-law heterosexual relationships and same-sex unions. But there is an over-riding concern here. Religious conservatives frequently believe that people chose their sexual orientation during their teen years. They also feel that God hates homosexual behavior. By maximizing discrimination against homosexuals, they fell that the number of youth who "choose" to be gay or lesbian will decrease.

Some comments on domestic partnership benefits are:

bulletIn 1997, messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting adopted a resolution opposing domestic- partner benefits and affirming businesses that "resist pressures to recognize the moral equivalence of domestic partnerships."
bulletAmerican Family Association commented on 1998-FEB-12 about a decision by Amoco and Mobil to offer same-sex benefits. Their vice-president, Tim Wildmon, wrote that the companies were using the "supposed victimization and discrimination against homosexuals as an excuse for the policy change, while the real reason is money and the normalization of a gay lifestyle. Character, integrity, and morality have lost their meaning in the corporate boardrooms of Amoco and Mobil.  Money has become more important than morals. Amoco and Mobil have lost their moral base, and if there are no rights or wrongs in society then we are left with hedonism - everything is right as long as it brings a person pleasure. This is a destructive philosophy, and does not bode well for our children and future generations." 4 In his news release, he did not indicate how the companies' policy change would increase their profits, or why extending benefits to all of their employees was an immoral choice, or why encouraging gay and lesbian employees to form committed relationships would increase hedonism. 
bulletIn 1998-MAY-14, Tim Wildmon criticized AT&T's decision to extend benefits. He said: "AT&T sees nothing wrong with their policy as long as a dollar can be made. There is nothing gay about the human suffering caused by AIDS and the tremendous cost to the taxpayers." 5 Again, he did not explain in his news release how encouraging single gays and lesbians to form committed partnerships would increase the transmission of AIDS. 
bulletIn 1999-OCT, when US Airways announced benefits for partners of its lesbian and gay employees, Herb Hollinger of the Southern Baptist Convention commented: "I can understand from a business point of view. We think it's a commentary on our culture, in which it's basically 'anything goes.' ''

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Registration of same-sex relationships by American cities

bulletMunicipal governments: As of 1999-OCT-15, almost 50 cities in the United States offered domestic partnership registries. 1 They include:
bulletAnn Arbor, MI
bulletAtlanta GA
bulletBerkeley, CA
bulletCambridge, MA
bulletHartford, CT
bulletIthaca, NY
bulletMadison, WI
bulletMinneapolis, MN
bulletSacramento, CA
bulletSan Francisco, CA
bulletWest Hollywood, CA

Typically, these registries will record same-sex partnerships where both spouses are over the age of 18. Some couples receive a certificate indicating their status. Registries have no force in law and do not grant significant rights, privileges or responsibilities to the couple.

During debate in Congress in 2001-SEP, it was revealed that since 1992, 113 cities had implemented domestic partnership legislation.

bulletDomestic partnership legislation ban in Washington DC: In 2001-SEP, the House debated the lifting of the ban on domestic partnership legislation in Washington DC. Debate was divided along party lines:
bullet

Representative Dave Weldon, (R-FL) was concerned that if the ban were lifted, it would "place heterosexual and homosexual cohabiting relationships on an equal footing with traditional marriage."

bullet

Representative Tom DeLay, (R-TX) commented: "We are walking away from the traditions and virtues that we have respected and honored since our country was founded."

bullet

Representative Barney Frank, (D-MA) said: "I was deeply shocked that the Republican leadership had chosen to use this bill to make an assault on millions of gay and lesbian Americans in general and on those who live in the District of Columbia in particular." Frank is openly gay.

bullet

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) simply said: "No citizen should be denied the right to care for an ailing partner."

bullet

David Smith, spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, a gay-positive group, said that his organization was gratified by the vote. "It's just a shame that that has to be controversial." 9

Weldon introduced an amendment that would restore the ban. The amendment was defeated 226 to 194. Washington DC is expected to be the 114th city offering domestic benefits in the near future. 7

bulletRegistry in Ashland, OR: On 1999-OCT-5, when the city council of Ashland, OR, discussed establishing a registry, two female ministers (a Methodist and a Unitarian Universalist) spoke in favor of the resolution. One pastor and three Christians, all male, spoke against it. The vote was 3 to 1 in favor. Mayor Catherine Shaw commented "I think the arguments were fairly predictable on both sides. Those for it said it was important for one segment of the population to have more of an official body to recognize their commitment to each other. The others primarily were arguments centered around Christianity and the issue of undermining the institution of marriage by allowing this kind of process." She continued: "Because I believe in marriage, I understand a little better why this particular segment of society was coming forward. I could understand why some couples who are unable to obtain a marriage license wanted a piece of paper from their local government. We want to do all we can to be in committed relationships, to care for each other." Concerning the resolution itself, she said: "If a certain segment of the population comes to us with a request that requires no public funds and little or no effort on the part of city government, and brings them peace of mind and helps loving human beings further commit to each other, I don't see why we shouldn't do it. "Councilman Cameron Hanson, who voted against the resolution was quoted as saying:  "It's not the city's place to be advocating homosexual unions. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue.

Barrett Duke, a spokesperson for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention expressed opposition to the Ashland registry. He apparently believes that such a registry is the first step down a slippery slope that will lead to eradication of the nuclear family:  "I think there are a lot of people out there who believe they do not have a right to impose their own moral values on others. They're willing to let other people make decisions about their lives as long as it doesn't affect them, and they don't see it will have any impact on their own lifestyles. They fail to recognize that acceptance of the new relationships is a first step toward the breakdown of their own lifestyles. These folks do not understand that when (pre- and extra-marital) sexual relationships are encouraged and same-sex marriages allowed, their children will be exposed to a much different mess than they were exposed to. What for us is considered fringe, our children will consider normal and the next step -- whatever it might be -- can be taken toward the further abolishment of the nuclear family." Duke expressed concern "that so few pastors and churches are speaking out on these important issues. If the church is silent, there is no voice for God." He apparently believes that Methodists and Unitarian Universalists do not speak for God -- only conservative Christians.

bulletAftermath of the terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon: The American Red Cross announced it would give benefits to gays and lesbians who lost partners in the 2001-SEP-11 terrorist attack on New York City and Arlington. Stacey Grissom, media relations associate for the Red Cross, said with exquisite clarity and simplicity: "Red Cross is a neutral and impartial organization and we help people who need help. So, we don't help with regards to race, creed, color, religion and sexual orientation. We help people who need to be helped." Grissom said the Red Cross is working with employers to locate information on victims' nearest living relatives. "So in those cases where the next of kin is listed as a domestic partner, that would be a person who would definitely get benefits," she said. 8,9

Matt Foreman, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay-positive organization, said his group had received commitments from several relief organizations to assist homosexuals who had lost their domestic partner in the attacks. However, he said: "No matter what kind of work we do and no matter how successful we are with the Red Cross, with United Way, with these various relief funds, gay and lesbian survivors are still going to face a huge inequity. No matter what work we do, we're not going to be able to get them to tap into the key long-term government supported programs." Such programs are for heterosexual couples only. 8

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Fundamentalist Christian organization, said money should not be granted to homosexuals who lost partners in the attack. He said that: "[Relief organizations] should be first giving priority to those widows who were at home with their babies, and those widowers who lost their wives. It should be given on the basis and priority of one man and one woman in a marital relationship. This is just another example of how the gay agenda is seeking to overturn the one man-one woman relationship from center stage in America, taking advantage of this tragedy." It is not clear whether he is advocating that married widows and widowers without children should have their support cut-off. It is also not clear whether he would wish that heterosexual widows and widowers with children should be supported by relief organizations. We have Faxed the Traditional Values Coalition for clarification.

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References:

  1. Sorry, we have lost the citation for this statement.
  2. Human Rights Watch have a web site at:
  3. "Coca-Cola extends benefits to homosexual partners," Baptist Press, 2000-JUN-26. Online at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00/20000626a.htm
  4. "Amoco and Mobil offer same-sex benefits," American Family Association, at: http://www.afa.net/alert/aa980212.shtml
  5. "AT&T adds same sex benefits for homosexual employees," American Family Association at: http://www.afa.net/alert/aa980514.shtml 
  6. Egale has a a list of employers in Canada which grant same-sex benefits at:  http://www.egale.ca/features/employer.htm
  7. "House extends benefits to gay couples in Washington," Fox News, at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/
  8. Matt Pyeatt, "Survivors of Terrorist Victims Granted Domestic Partnership Benefits," CNSNews, at: http://www.cnsnews.com/
  9. "House extends benefits to gay couples in Washington," Fox News, at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/   

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Copyright © 2000 & 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUN-29
Latest update: 2001-OCT-5
Author: B.A. Robinson

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