Domestic Partner Benefits: A Critical Part of Our Fight

You may have run across yesterday’s news accounts, such as this one in the Washington Post, about President Obama’s decision to award some domestic partner benefits to federal employees. You also may have read accounts, such as this Reuters release of a Politico story, that detail continued criticisms of Obama for not doing more to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Here in Texas, we’ve been working on this issue with a coalition of state university workers who want to secure domestic partner benefits for university employees. The term accurately describing what we’re seeking is “competitive insurance benefits.” In other words, if we don’t secure the same sorts of insurance benefits that more progressive university systems have arrived at, we risk losing talented LGBT members of university faculties and staffs to schools in other states.

President Obama, to be fair, is attempting to address the concerns that LGBT federal employees. Because health care is tied so closely to employment in our current system, LGBT workers with families to support must factor in employers’ views on health care for domestic partners when looking for work or deciding to stay with a particular employer. Married couples don’t have to take those same sort of factors into account, because federal law protects them. Under the current system — a system with includes the Defense of Marriage Act and its limitations on same-sex partners, even those who are legally married in the handful of states currently allowing and recognizing those marriages — there is a separate and unequal system in place that ultimately impacts many families. Certainly, that double standard is as unacceptable as any other form of discrimination — be it based on gender, race, or sexual orientation.

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