Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Republicans Push to Strip Gay Employees Only of Health Benefits for Spouse

Republicans continue their campaign to attack gay couples. A new law is being pushed in Michigan to strip gay state employees of any benefits that their spouses or children receive, even though the same benefits are offered to straight couples. In addition, the law would make it illegal for unions to discuss such benefits during collective bargaining.

Andries Coetzee and partner Gary Woodall, one of the gay
couples under attack by the Republican Party
In 2004 state universities agreed to offer the same health benefits to gay employees that are offered to straight employees. Numerous individuals signed labor agreements with the universities based on these promised forms of compensation. And though universities in Michigan are supposed to have independence from political manipulation of their budgets, according to the state constitution, Republicans are attempting to do a run around the constitution and pass legislation that would prohibit any benefits for the spouses of gay employees along with their children. For 160 years universities had constitutional autonomy with management and control of the universities resting solely with the governing boards.

Republicans, in order to punish people for being gay, are happy to violate Constitutional restrictions on the powers of the legislature. This meant the universities were free to make budgetary decisions of how to spend their funds. So much for constitutional restrictions on the power of the state. Republicans clearly will violate any "principle" they claim to uphold in order to conduct their jihad against gay people.

The bill has already passed the House and is now under consideration by the Senate.

Republicans insist that "defense of marriage" acts previously passed give them the right to go after the benefits of gay university employees since giving their spouses benefits is a form of recognizing their relationships, something the GOP doesn't want to do under any circumstance. This indicates that the Religious Right intends to use such laws a wedges that allow them to go after gay people in ways that were not part of the original legislation. Laws preventing marriage are now used to say that gay couples don't have a right to health coverage even if the coverage is part of the labor contract.

Andries Coetzee is a linguistics professor and has been with his partner, Gary Woodall, for seven years. Woodall's health insurance is included in Coetzee's policy as an employee of the university. Woodall, has been combating cancer and is now in remission. The new legislation would strip Woodall of his health coverage.

University officials say that they will be hampered in hiring good professors because most other universities offer the spouses of gay employees coverage. A vice president of the university said: "These benefits are important for the successful recruitment and retention of our top-flight faculty and staff. We're in competition on lots of levels, this would be an added competitive disadvantage."

Coetzee has said he has already started applying for positions in other states. Of course, the legislation, if passed, would not only drive away current staff but would also make it harder for the university to recruit employees by limiting the pool they have to select from. The result will be a increase in search costs as the university will need to look longer to find the same number of employees.

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Dave Agema—a Republican, of course—says "It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to support the roommates and unmarried partners of public employees."

This is the typical Catch-22 that bigoted politicians use. They have regulations that prevent gay couples from legally marrying and they say that because they are not legally married they should not receive the same compensation for employment that married heterosexual couples have.

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