Companies' benefit policies validate same-sex relationships
Ed Vitagliano
Ed Vitagliano
AFA Journal news editor

May 1996 – A small, but growing, number of American corporations have joined a handful of municipalities and private and public universities in extending employee benefits to homosexual domestic partners, and in the process are elevating same-sex couples to a status equal to the institution of traditional marriage.

In the past, companies that extended benefits to employees also offered relevant benefits to their spouses. But in recent years a major policy shift has occurred. Some companies are now extending company benefits to what has become known as “domestic partners”    more often than not, homosexual live-ins.

About 70 companies nationwide permit unmarried partners to join company health plans, according to the Family Research Council. Although small in number (only six of the Fortune 1000), they include such highly visible companies as Apple Computer, Levi Strauss, Microsoft, NYNEX and Walt Disney.

Fairness is the justification
While the criteria for defining a domestic partner varies from company to company, the common principle is summed up in Apple Computer’s terse statement: “An adult who lives together with another adult of the same sex in an exclusive, committed relationship.”

Companies that recognize domestic partnerships often site “fairness” as their justification. That is, since same-sex marriages are currently illegal in all fifty states, companies are attempting to extend the same employee benefits to a group that cannot, by definition, receive spousal benefits.

This is also why some companies exclude heterosexual partners from their benefits program. In defending this exclusion, many use the same reasoning as Apple Computer’s Pam Miracle, of the company’s corporate communications office. She said, “A heterosexual couple does have a recourse under the law: they can be legally married and therefore can obtain benefits. Same-sex domestic partners do not have that recourse.” Apple’s policy is an attempt to rectify that inequity, she said.

On the surface Miracle’s reasoning seems quite egalitarian. Naturally, a company wants to treat all of its employees the same. Employee benefits should therefore be distributed in an equitable manner.

Sean Fitzgerald of Levi Strauss agrees. He said that his company changed its policy “essentially because several employees from all different aspects of the company felt that it was discriminatory for the company to offer health care benefits to one group and not another. We felt that if we’re going to be offering benefits to one group we should offer them to everyone.” (Emphasis added.)

However, this reasoning is flawed. Spousal benefits are by definition for spouses only, and to change that policy to avoid discriminating against non-spouses is illogical.

For example, what would a company say if non-handicapped individuals demanded benefits extended specifically to handicapped individuals, claiming discrimination? That is, “Handicapped people get benefits that I don’t get. That’s unfair.”

Most companies would likely disregard such a silly protest. By definition, handicapped benefits would apply to the people in a specific group, marked by a specific characteristic –  their handicap. To extend those benefits to non-handicapped employees might be politically correct, but logically baffling. Extending spousal benefits to non-married individuals on the basis of discrimination is likewise illogical: marriage benefits are for married people.

Marriage devalued, sodomy elevated
This new trend reveals an even more disturbing philosophical change: some companies now view domestic partnerships as the moral equivalent of traditional marriage. Hertz, for example, no longer distinguishes between spouses and domestic partners in its additional authorized driver policy. Lauren Kelly of Hertz said the reason for the change was simple: “We are attempting to accord fair and equal treatment to spouses and domestic partners.” (Emphasis added.)

Microsoft’s Dean Katz was even more candid: “Microsoft feels it should not treat gay and lesbian employees any differently, and because they cannot obtain a legal sanction of their partnership, it is the company’s view that their commitment to their partnership is analogous to that involved in a contemporary [marriage] relationship.” (Emphasis added.)

This policy presupposes that homosexual partnership is equivalent to marriage. These companies have either lowered the status of marriage, or raised the status of what society used to condemn as sodomy. In Microsoft’s judgment, there is no moral difference.

Philosophical double-speak
Companies are eager to justify their new domestic partner policies as being an issue of fairness. At the same time, most deny that their policies have a moral component. Fitzgerald, for example, was careful to say that Levi Strauss “is not, as a company, making value judgments about our employees or their lifestyles.” (Emphasis added.)

But why this involuntary shudder when the question of morality is raised? Miracle said it was “because the natural assumption is that this is a stance in support of homosexuality, versus understanding that this is taking a stance in support of equal opportunity, equal treatment for all employees.”

Yet, fairness without morality is philosophical double-speak. Webster defines the word “moral” as “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior.” Thus fairness is revealed to be a moral issue. After all, why should NYNEX care whether homosexual domestic partners receive employee benefits? Glen Brandow of NYNEX said that it was “fair” to do so. But why should NYNEX be fair? The implicit answer is that fairness is the right  thing to do. And right brings us back to morality, of course.

Equality for all?
How far are companies willing to go in sacrificing on the altar of “fairness” thousands of years of moral certitude about heterosexual marriage? When asked if Apple might, at some future point, extend these same employee benefits to polygamous relationships, Miracle replied, “Homosexuality is not forbidden by law, polygamy is.”

Disregarding the fact that many of the states in this country do, in fact, prohibit sodomy, Miracle misses the real point. Homosexuality may not be illegal, but homosexual marriage is. To rectify what Apple sees as an inequity, the company extends benefits to people who cannot legally get married.

Yet the exact same reasoning could be used to justify extending benefits to polygamists or those involved in incestuous relationships between consenting adults. Such people, by virtue of their selection of partners, are precluded by law from marrying, and thus would be excluded by current company policy from obtaining an “equal benefit.”

Operating under the guise of egalitarianism, companies like Microsoft, Disney, and others have joined the assault on the institution of marriage and the mom-and-dad family. In their economy, the God-ordained anchor of human existence – marriage between one man and one woman – is simply the price to be paid for “fairness.”

Consumers must face the sobering truth that support for these companies is underwriting the  dissolution of their own culture.  

CorrectionContrary to a report in the March, 1996, AFA Journal, the national organizations of United Way and American Red Cross do not offer domestic partner benefits. The information came from an article in the Orlando Sentinel.