12/08/2004

Logical Consequences

The Boston Globe reports that many of the largest employers in Massachusetts are ending their policies of offering "domestic partner" benefits because same-sex couples can now legally get married in that state.

Massachusetts companies, some of which pioneered so-called domestic-partner benefits for unmarried, same-sex partners, said they are now withdrawing them for reasons of fairness: If gays and lesbians can now marry, they should no longer receive special treatment in the form of health benefits that were not made available to unmarried, opposite-sex couples.

Large employers terminating or phasing out domestic-partner benefits for some or all Massachusetts workers include IBM Corp., Raytheon Co., Emerson College, Northeastern University, the National Fire Protection Association, Boston Medical Center, Baystate Health System, and The New York Times Co., which owns The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

"We're saying if you're a same-sex domestic partner, you now have the same option heterosexuals have, so we have to apply the same rules to you," said Larry Emerson, Baystate's vice president of human resources.
Seems perfectly reasonable to me. It also would have been perfectly reasonable to offer domestic partnerships benefits to mixed-sex couples. However, eliminating benefits is usually more cost-effective than adding them.

Unsurprisingly, there are complaints.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, a New England advocacy organization, argues that taking them away is an unfair hardship, because the decision to marry is still more difficult for gay and lesbian couples.
When people on the right talk about homosexuals clamoring for "special rights", this is the sort of thing they're talking about. GLAD seems to think that Massachusetts employers should offer a benefit that applies only to them for no other reason than getting married is a difficult decision for same-sex couples. Speaking as a married heterosexual, I can assure you that it's not an easy decision for mixed-sex couples, either. I shouldn't expect my employer to extend medical benefits to my girlfriend simply because it's a hard decision to make.

News flash: It's supposed to be a hard decision. Marriage is supposed to be a lifetime commitment, and the decision to enter into it should be difficult. It should be the kind of decisions that makes you wake up in the middle of the night bathed in sweat. Agreeing to let someone else rearrange your stuff for the rest of your life is not a natural act, and is deserving of hard introspection.

Same-sex couples wanted the right to marry. In Massachusetts, they got it. It's not unreasonable to expect people to be married if they want to receive the benefits of being married.