Monday, July 30, 2012

Indianapolis Council Proposal to Extend "Domestic Partner Benefits" to Unmarried, Heterosexual Couples Would Undermine the Institution of Marriage

Over at Indy Democrat, my friend Jon Easter accuses Mayor Greg Ballard of playing games with his hesitancy on the domestic partner ordinance going through the Indianapolis City-County Council:
Ballard, according to media reports, has concerns over the proposal believing that it will give straight couples in Indianapolis a reason not to marry. Reports say (and he's not denying it) the Mayor is trying to strike out language that would make the proposal apply to opposite sex couples and make it only a same-sex couple ordinance if passed. This would likely cause most of the Republicans and maybe a couple of Democrats supporting the measure currently to vote against the proposal.
So, that raises the question: how often do people get married for benefits only? I'm sure it happens. I know there are definitely "marriages of convenience" out there. I really don't think that's germane to this ordinance, though. I don't think this will cause a significant change in the rate of people joining in holy matrimony. Pretty much, if you want to get married; you will get married. If not, you won't. Benefits aren't going to change that. This just opens another door for some couples that meet very specific requirements to get benefits from the City of Indianapolis. The financial benefits of marriage still outweigh any benefits this proposal would allow qualifying couples to receive from the city.
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Councilor Angela Mansfield, sponsor of
domestic partnership benefits proposal.
If Jon is accurately portraying the Mayor's position, I would wholeheartedly agree with the Mayor. I am completely opposed to the idea of handing out benefits for people who can get married and choose not to.  Marriage has been deemed to play an important role in our society and worthy of being given favorable legal treatment as a result.  The only reason to support the domestic partnership measure is the fact that we as a society do not allow same sex couples to get married.  I just don't know if legally the domestic partner benefit ordinance can be confined to same sex couples.  If it can be, I'd vote for it...but preferably with an amendment that when marriage becomes available to same sex partners, the partnership benefits end.  And make no mistake about it, same sex marriage is coming to Indiana, probably well within the lifetimes of middle-aged people like me.

I think Jon has the politics of this issue wrong.   If same sex couples could get married, the domestic partner benefit measure would never have gotten off the ground in the first place. The whole reason for the ordinance is to compensate for the state's discriminatory treatment of same sex couples when it comes to marriage.  There are a lot of Republicans, like myself and apparently Mayor Ballard, who believe strongly in traditional marriage but do not like to see it denied to same sex couples who love each other and want to make that commitment.

Undoubtedly arguing that domestic partner benefits ordinance is not about marriage discrimination is part of a strategic move by advocates who are trying to enlist the support of Republicans who fear the measure might intrude on traditional marriage.  The irony though is the measure - by granting benefits to heterosexual couples, people who can get married and choose not to - actually does undermine traditional marriage.   If the ordinance was confined to awarding benefits for same sex couples that are discriminated against from getting married, at least until such time as same sex marriage is allowed, then the measure would support traditional marriage.

The Mayor appears to have this one right.  Let's not extend domestic partner benefits to heterosexual couples who choose not to get married.


varangianguard said...


Paul K. Ogden said...

Okay, I didn't get that Varan.

Nicolas Martin said...

When government colleges train students to be divorce lawyers, doesn't that also undermine the institution of marriage?

varangianguard said...

You are trying to support a Nanny government.

I thought you left that kind of busybody behavior exclusively for Marxists, Socialists and Liberals?

Government OUT of the bedroom.

And would you please dump that pathetic "prove you're not a robot" step? I can hardly read some of that stuff.

Jeff Cox said...

I gotta agree with Ballard on this one. You are correct, Paul, that the underlying problem is the state's discrimination against same sex couples. How you get around that I do not know.

Morning Constitutional said...

Paul and Jeff: I'm really having difficulty understanding the basis of your opinions that an ordinance applying only to same sex couples would not pass constitutional muster.

The Morrison case, based on the seminal low-bar equal protection analysis of Collins v. Day (generally cited as controlling), upheld EXCLUDING same sex couples from marriage (the "responsible procreation" factor), and as I think Paul agrees, federal courts have thus far reach a similar result.

If it's constitutional to exclude one group and not the other, wouldn't the converse be true if a rational basis for the distinction can be articulated?

Wouldn't that reason be the very reason Paul is against including same-sex couples in the ordinance: that they have the ability to marry?

Morning Constitutional said...

Incidentally, my question above SHOULDN'T be taken as supporting a change in the ordinance to apply only to same sex couples. There doesn't seem to be any question about the constitutionality of applying to both sets. (If HJR-6 were to pass it might be a very different story for both versions....but that's not directly at issue presently). Restricting it will cause a loss of votes in the council.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I think you have a point, Morning Constitutional. My chief concern was Indiana's Privileges and Immunities Clause which acts as an equal protection clause, but the state doesn't employ the different standards like you see with the federal equal protection clause.

It is certainly in a gray area though and there would undoubtedly be litigation. You've convinced me though it's worth a try.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Still not sure what you're saying unless you're one of those who thinks government shouldn't be in the business of sanctioning marriage. If that's the case, good luck with that. There are 50 states and not a single one has gone that route. And government never will.

Paul K. Ogden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul K. Ogden said...


Not sure you're point. I have yet to meet a divorce attorney who caused a divorce. What we really need is a cooling off period for marriage. So many people rush into marriage, then months later regret it.

Indy Student said...

Paul, I certainly agree about not rushing to a marriage. I know to get married in the Catholic church, you have to go through a pretty extensive process with your church, priest, etc... if you want the full sacrament of marriage.

But if thats even possible to build a similar model in terms of civil marriage, well, I'd say the odds are stacked against it.

Lisa said...

I really not sure how this will workHR Proposals

Jon Easter said...

Why should people have to get married JUST to get benefits? Many couples live together for years in committed relationships but never join in marriage. Are we passing judgement on them by not allowing them taxable benefits from city government that OTHER CITIES and employers allow?

It's not like this is the first time anyone's tried. Indianapolis is just trying to join the 21st Century.

Mayor Ballard doesn't want to pass this, and he knows that by killing the opposite sex portion it will kill the bill. Ballard is afraid of Micah Clark and the right wingers...some of which outside of the state...that are weighing in on the issue.

Douglas Karr said...

I think one has to go back to the origins of why the State got involved in marriage in the first place. It was to stop interracial marriages from happening when Churches could not. The question isn't whether or not who the government should decide has permission to get married, the question is why is the government involved in this in the first place? In a free country, you shouldn't have to ask the government PERMISSION to get in a legally binding contract with another person or business.

Taxation, healthcare and other packages that support married people over single people should not be constitutional. We're supposed to all be treated equally... whether I'm married, single, or have a child.

The slippery slope here is that once the government can tell you who you marry, don't be surprised when they start to assume power over other religious acts. Christians should honestly be pushing the government OUT of this conflict, not pushing the government IN.

Get government OUT of this.

Kimberly Mullin said...

I've got a friend who is a divorce attorney west palm beach who said he's really hoping that the implementation of this kind of provision pushes through to make things less complicated and manageable. Aside from that, it also signifies equality to all whatever your sexuality is.

Daniel Swifts said...

I don’t know to them Jon, if they only want the benefits or the reason they go for marriage is because they love each other. One of the asset forfeiture lawyers that I’ve tried to talk about the benefits that the married couple told me that they could have some benefits such as Medicaid, sponsor husband/wife for immigration benefits and employment assistance from military service.