Thursday, May 24, 2012

Will the Legalization of Same Sex Marriage End Domestic Partner Benefits?

Over at the Indy Daily Student blog, Matt Stone and I have been engaged in a discussion over domestic partner benefits.  It is a discussion that originated as a result of Indianapolis City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield's proposal to provide for domestic partner benefits for municipal and county employees.

I think it is fair to say we both see same sex marriage coming down the road, although it might be a longer road in Indiana's case.  Matt though thinks that once same sex marriage comes, domestic partner benefits will continue to be offered by companies.  I think otherwise.  I believe domestic partner benefits were adopted as a way to provide same sex couples some of the benefits companies offer to married couples. Once same sex marriage comes, the chief reason for those domestic partner benefits goes away.

Figuring out who is in a domestic partnership is not always an easy thing to do.  When those benefits are triggered by marriage, those problems of proof are no longer there.  Plus, society - both in government and out of government - has long been structured to encourage people to make the ultimate commitment two people can make - marriage - and rewarded that commitment with certain benefits.  Offering those same benefits to couples who are simply living together does not to encourage one to enter into marriage.

While the number of companies that offer domestic partner benefits is nowhere near a majority, many Fortune 500 companies do.

I actually heard one person who strongly supports same sex relationships actually express opposition to same sex marriage because of concern that domestic partner benefits will go away.  As someone who strongly supports the institution of marriage and think it is an important building block of society that should not be denied to same sex couples, I don't have a problem with companies reserving their awarding of certain benefits to those employees who make the marriage commitment.


Gary R. Welsh said...

You misunderstand the origin of domestic partner benefits. They were extended to same-sex couples, but they primarily offered as a way of providing benefits to the growing number of opposite-sex couples who cohabitate but choose not to marry. The real solution might be to have the government simply recognize civil unions for both opposite and same-sex couples and leave it to religions to define what a marriage is. When France started offering civil unions to all, they were surprised to find that more opposite-sex couples were choosing to enter into civil unions instead of marriages than same-sex couples choosing to enter into civil unions.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, while that may be true, I think same sex marriage will certainly lead to some companies eliminating domestic partner benefits. How many will do that, I don't know.