Editor’s note: With minor changes, this article is reprinted from the May, 1996, issue of AFA Journal.
February 2000 – To many people, the hullabaloo over domestic partner benefits may seem like a tempest in a teapot. But to pro-family groups, moral conservatives and people of faith, it represents one more in a series of tidal waves that threaten the sanctity, strength, and viability of the institution of marriage.
Many companies and most corporations have offered benefit packages to workers for years – like health plans or life insurance. Those plans covered not only a worker, but often the worker’s spouse and children. Domestic partner benefits refer to the growing practice of extending that benefits package to cover, not a legal spouse, but a live-in homosexual lover.
About 70 of the Fortune 500 companies nationwide permit unmarried partners to join company health plans, and many of them are household names: Apple Computer, Levi Strauss, Microsoft, NYNEX and The Walt Disney Company.
Homosexual activists who advocate this, and the corporations who have heeded them, claim that extending benefit coverage is only fair, since homosexuals cannot legally marry. Pro-family groups, however, see this corporate practice as growing out of a broader homosexual agenda, part of which is to remove the distinction between same-sex and married couples. Domestic partner policies presuppose that homosexual domestic partnership is the equivalent of traditional marriage, something that pro-family groups lament.
Fairness is the justification
While the criteria for classifying someone as a domestic partner varies from company to company, the common principle is summed up in Apple Computer’s terse definition: “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 50 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.”
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 the same benefits extended specifically to handicapped individuals, by claiming that they were being discriminated against? 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: married benefits are for married people.
Marriage devalued, sodomy elevated
The actual number of homosexual domestic partnerships in the U.S. is actually quite small. Using federal government statistics for 1994 and 1998, Out magazine calculated that there are just over 1.6 million homosexuals living with a same-sex domestic partner – or about half a percent of the population. Furthermore, the fraction of this number that has access to and then takes advantage of domestic partner benefits is obviously even smaller.
However, it is not the numbers involved in the domestic partnership rage within Corporate America that worries pro-family groups. Rather, this new trend reveals a disturbing philosophical shift: a growing number of 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.)
Such policies presuppose that, since homosexual domestic partnerships are the equivalent of traditional marriages, they must receive equal treatment. These companies have either lowered the status of marriage, or raised the status of what society used to condemn as sodomy.
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.”
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? A NYNEX spokesman 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.
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 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, removing 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 subsidizing the moral dissolution of their own culture.
ExxonMobil rejects experiment with domestic partner benefits
Pro-family groups applauded the decision by ExxonMobil, the newly merged mega oil giant, to grant health benefits only to the spouses of married employees, and not to the domestic partners of homosexual workers.
AFA Director of Public Relations Allen Wildmon said the problem with domestic partner benefit plans is that they elevate cohabitation to the same status as marriage. “Companies which extend these benefits to cohabiting homosexuals are in essence saying that two men shacking up together is the equivalent of a man and woman who are joined together in holy matrimony,” Wildmon said. “It isn’t the same, and we’re obviously ecstatic over the change at ExxonMobil.”
Exxon has steadfastly refused to buckle to the demands of homosexual activists. At their annual meeting last May, over 94% of Exxon’s shareholders rejected a measure that would have extended benefits to the domestic partners of homosexual employees.
In April of 1998, a letter sent to Mobil and signed by leaders of a coalition of family groups representing 25 million Christian conservatives, asked that same-sex partner benefits be discontinued. The coalition included American Family Association, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Christian Coalition, Coral Ridge Ministries and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mobil decided to drop the plan after the two oil companies merged last week. Homosexual employees currently enrolled in the plan will still be eligible; newly hired “gay” employees will not.
Since married employees simply have to provide proof of marriage for spouses to qualify for benefits, companies with domestic partner benefit plans must require some other form of proof to validate a “partnership.”
Mobil Company spokesman Ed Burwell said the policy shift “ends the need for the company to, on its own, determine the legitimacy of relationships.”
Wildmon said, “Homosexuals are notoriously promiscuous, and it must be very frustrating for a company to have to continually adjust its records every time a homosexual employee wants his latest lover to get benefits.”