Pioneer Press Supports Municipal Domestic Partner's Bill
Let communities decide on benefits
Gay and lesbian couples cannot marry in Minnesota. State law prohibits it. They cannot enter into civil unions — the law does not allow it. But Minnesota wisely did not enshrine those policies in the state Constitution. That means there is hope for change someday.
In the meantime, a move to allow local governments to decide whether to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees is pending at the Legislature.
We strongly support the measure. For one thing, it's a matter of local control. Two, we believe this is a matter of freedom and fairness, two American values that have a way of winning out. And no matter what the civil law says, now or in the future, churches will — and should — always have the right to decide which relationships to consecrate.
We recognize that society as a whole may not be ready for same-sex marriage. We respect principled arguments about tradition and about the role of government in private lives — provided those doing the arguing show respect for the human beings at their center. Although there are drawbacks to a piecemeal approach to making our laws reflect real life, these debates about extending benefits to couples who don't have access to marriage are useful.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura was a trailblazer in this area, seeking to make it policy for state government. He was blocked by a Republican-controlled House at a time when our current governor, Tim Pawlenty, was the House majority leader. Pawlenty's Republican Party considers this a non-negotiable issue, and he has opposed same-sex benefits and favored enshrining a no-gay-marriage provision in the state Constitution.
Love is bigger than government, Ventura once said, and indeed, people have followed their hearts to form loving families regardless of what the law or benefit packages say. Many employers have found it smart to make same-sex benefits available in order to attract the best people. There is no evidence that heterosexual marriages at these institutions have fallen apart as a result.
A court decision currently prohibits local governments from enacting same-sex benefits. The bills under consideration in the Legislature would not require cities, counties and school districts to provide the benefits. It would allow them to decide the issue for themselves.
Groups opposing such measures say they are "defending marriage.'' But this proposal isn't about marriage; it's about fairness and freedom. It seems that these groups oppose the relationships: They do not want our friends, cousins and co-workers to follow their hearts.
Fairness and freedom are on the side of love, not denial. We hope this is the year the Legislature and Pawlenty recognize this.