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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bill introduced that would allow local governments to provide domestic partner/designated beneficiary benefits

David Strand from Marriage Equality posted the following on a number of Minnesota gay lists:

HF 1097 & SF 0960 where introduced on Monday, Feb. 19th with some bi-partisan support. The bills would allow local governments to define "dependent" for purposes of group benefits for local government officers and employees.

Since a 1995 state supreme court decision, the city of Minneapolis has been prevented by a quirk in state law from providing domestic partnership benefits to it's employees and this bill would fix that problem as well as open the door for other communities to follow suit with domestic partner benefits or the broader designated beneficiary benefits for their employees

HF 1097 is authored by Rep. Davnie and coauthored by Reps. Hilty, Liebling, Tschumper, N. Peterson, Erhardt, Hilstrom, Kahn, Dill, Solberg, Simon, Clark, Bigham, E. Murphy, Hornstein, Walker, Paymar, Hausman, Carlson, Nelson, Atkins, Jaros, & Wagenius.

SF 0960 is authored by Sens. Higgins, Dibble, Koering, Sauxhaug, and Sieben.

Please call your state representative and state senator and ask them to support this legislation. It's critical that there be some political successes at the capital this year for issues relating to equality for same sex couples if there is ever going to be forward movement on broader legislation such as marriage equality legislation.

This is particularly true since the Republican controlled house succeeded just a few years ago in shutting down state government over the issue of domestic partnership benefits for state employees under Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Please call and thank your state senator or state representative if they are one of the authors listed above.

If you don't know who your state representative or state senator is or how to get ahold of them please go to http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/Districtfinder.asp or call (651) 296-2146 or 1 (800) 657-3550 or use
TTY: (651) 296-9896.

More of my thoughts on this bill follow below.

Thanks,

David Strand
Marriage Equality Minnesota

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Passage of this bill would enable local governments to choose to offer domestic partner or designated beneficiary benefits to their employees. Whereas designated beneficiary benefits is the broadest and I believe fairest model, entitling each employee to designate one other adult as a beneficiary regardless of whether or not their relationship is spousal, conjugal, familial, philial or otherwise, I am pleased that this bill would allow local governments to make this choice rather than the more limited choice of domestic partner. The more folks who identify with a proposed benefit change the more support one may be able to garner for a change. On the other hand, financial cost of a proposed change increases with an increase in number of people possibly benefitting from change. Still, I believe we all have an interest in our public institutions setting a good example as employers and helping mainstream more equitable benefits for employees through designated beneficiary benefits.

The other nice thing about this bill is it localizes the issue. Locales around the state vary greatly in what would be the best strategic approach. In some locales domestic partnership benefits may be strategically smarter as a first step while in others designated beneficiaries eclipses an identification with glbt rights specifically through it's broad reach to all unmarried employees but nonetheless brings greater equity for same sex partners of employees without making that the primary focus as is often the case in debates over domestic partnership legislation.

These choices will be left to local communities and local activists under this legislation which I believe is the best way to broaden support for fairer employee benefit practices being practiced and modeled by our local governments.


What will Governor Pawlenty do?

Kudos to David Strand for letting us know about this. There's been no word from Outfront Minnesota on this or other issues.

2 comments:

Doug Mann said...

As I recall, the city of Minneapolis tried to extend domestic partner benefits on the cheap, by limiting them to same sex couples. The argument for excluding unmarried heterosexual couples from this benefit is that marriage is an option for heteosexual couples, but not for same sex couples. Opponants of the domestic partnership benefits, on the other hand, argued that the Minneapolis City Council was proposing to discriminate against unmarried, heterosexual domestic partners by denying benefits to unmarried couples on the basis of sexual orientation. In other major cities, states, big corporations, etc., domestic partner benefits have been made available to unmarried couples regardless of the couple's sexual equipment and orientation. If you advocate health benefits, etc., as a right of all domestic partners, you also have a potentially broader base of support than if you advocate extending domestic partner benefits only to gay couples and not unmarried "straight" couples.

-Doug Mann, 2006 Minneapolis School Board candidate
http://dougmannlnc.com/id21.html

Markh said...

You can now find information about this bill, and links to contact legislators, on the Outfront website.