[Vision2020] Group Says Benefits for Domestic Partners Illegal

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Wed Dec 19 06:43:16 PST 2007

>From today's (December 19, 2007) Spokesman Review -


Group says benefits for domestic partners illegal 
Idaho Values Alliance against Moscow insurance plan

Becky Kramer 
Staff writer
December 19, 2007

The city of Moscow's decision to offer health insurance benefits to domestic
partners of employees is drawing heat from the Idaho Values Alliance, which
says the decision violates a 2006 voter-approved amendment to the state
constitution defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only
recognized domestic legal union in the state.

"I do think the bottom line is that we're headed for a constitutional
showdown," said Bryan Fischer, executive director of the Idaho Values
Alliance, a 1,300-member group dedicated to preserving traditional family

"What Moscow did was to say that co-habiting and same-sex partnerships are
legally and morally equivalent to the marriage of one man and one woman, and
that is very bad public policy," he said.

Fischer's group is lobbying state lawmakers to get a legal opinion from
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Mayor Nancy Chaney said the group is misconstruing Monday night's 4-2 vote.

"The city of Moscow is neither defining nor creating domestic partnerships,"
she said. The language "domestic partner" is used by Regence Blue Shield of
Idaho, the city's insurance carrier.

To qualify for the benefits, city employees would have to sign an affidavit,
indicating that they and their unmarried partner meet the "domestic
partnership" guidelines outlined by Regence Blue Shield, according to

The City Council has discussed extending benefits to employees' unmarried
partners for about two years, she said. However, Regence Blue Shield of
Idaho only began offering that option in November. In 2005, the Spokane City
Council granted benefits to domestic partners of employees.

"We're proud of diversity," said Chaney. Randy Fife, the city's attorney,
argues that nothing in the resolution supersedes Idaho law.

"The constitution is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman," he
said. "State and local political subdivisions are prohibited from
recognizing domestic unions."

The resolution only affects health benefits, Fife added. The definition of
"immediate family" in the city's personnel policy remains unchanged, and
does not include unmarried partners, he said.

Jack Van Valkenburgh, executive director of ACLU of Idaho, agreed with
Fife's assessment.

"Moscow has chosen to provide health insurance to partners of employees
regardless of sexual orientation," he said. "I would reject the claim that
this is trying to codify gay marriage."

Tom Lamar, a council member who voted for the resolution, said having more
people covered under health insurance plans is a positive step for the
entire community.

"We have a non-discrimination policy and we need to make sure that our
employee benefit package matches that," Lamar said. "I'm married and I live
in Idaho and I don't feel threatened by this. . People need to be more
confident in their own marriages."

But the Idaho Values Alliance's Fischer contends the marriage amendment was
passed to prevent actions like Moscow's resolution.

While private companies can offer whatever benefits they choose, state and
local governments are prohibited from treating same-sex and cohabiting
partners like married couples for benefit purposes, Fischer said.

"If Moscow gets away with this, the constitution will become essentially
meaningless," he said. "We'll have one municipality and government entity
after another doing the same thing that Moscow did."


How they voted:

Moscow City Council members Kit Craine, Aaron Ament, Tom Lamar and Linda
Pall voted in favor of extending health insurance to unmarried partners of
city employees. John Weber and Bill Lambert voted against.


Apparently what some people fail to grasp is the simplicity of this issue.

Blue Shield offers insurance to individuals and their domestic partners
(Blue Shield's term, NOT Mayor Chaney's).  Domestic partners of city
employees may now be eligible for insurance coverage under Blue Shield if
they meet BLUE SHIELD'S CRITERIA AS A DOMESTIC PARTNER, as discussed within
the committee's report available at:


It really is just that simple.

But then maybe this is far more complex, maybe the thought processing behind
IVA's contention is a clear symptom of . . .

"Queer Fear" (some adult language)

Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in
that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity,
their dignity and personhood,"

- Coretta Scott King (March 30, 1998)

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