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Issue: Domestic Partners : The Long Beach City Council recently rejected a proposal to grant health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees, including unmarried heterosexuals and gay and lesbian couples, because it would cost taxpayers too much. Are non-traditional families entitled to such benefits?

August 05, 1993|Psyche Pascual, Times community correspondent

Shirley Guy

Long Beach Human Relations Commission

Obviously the answer is yes, because people who have declared that they live in a domestic partner relationship have made a commitment to each other that frequently lasts

longer than traditional marriages, longer than traditional families. The proposal that we made did not differentiate between homosexual and heterosexual couples. In the case of homosexual couples, they cannot legally marry and cover each other with benefits. In the case of heterosexual couples, they have that option. Traditionally, employers have offered benefits to attract good employees and to promote morale among employees. They offered benefits to families for some of those same reasons. By not extending benefits to the family as it has become, you're disenfranchising groups of employees from being able to participate in the package that employers are offering. The experience of other cities that have already done this is that it's a negligible increase.

The Rev. Mark Chappell

First Baptist Church of Long Beach

My answer is no. I believe that families based on the Supreme Court definition of family are the ones that ought to be entitled because that's consistent with the way God ordained the family should be. I'm not trying to stick my head in the sand and say we don't have dysfunctional families, or that there aren't people that are living together that have legitimate needs. But to classify them as a family is to change a time-honored definition. And you can't change something as timeless as that. I believe that the legislation that was proposed was primarily geared toward the legitimization of same-sex relationships or partnerships and they try to incorporate this agenda with such issues as senior citizen concerns. They muddy the waters in a place where it was very difficult to deal with the issues on an individual basis. My personal belief is that homosexuals should not be afforded special privileges because their lifestyle is a choice.

Paul Self

President Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club

I think the answer in a nutshell is yes. The traditional American family we've all come to recognize from situation comedies and shows from the '50s isn't really applicable. According to the Census Bureau, 4.2 million households are made up of unmarried couples. When we're speaking of benefits extended to domestic partners, the experience of other employers, both in the public and private sector, has been that the majority of those that enroll are heterosexual couples. The experience of those employers is that extending benefits to domestic partners doesn't negatively impact their cost to provide such benefits. What really seems to motivate the opposition to extension or recognition of domestic partnerships is the fear of change and the lack of knowledge of what constitutes domestic partnership. What I witnessed when I spoke before the City Council subcommittee was pure, unadulterated hatred and homophobia being espoused by good Christian people, as they describe themselves.

Douglas S. Drummond

Long Beach City Councilman

If we were going to make the decision to add half a million dollars to the budget, my decision is no. I know there is a strong lobby out there that wants to include domestic partners. And I keep saying, let the lobby go back to the group that affects employee coverage. I think the employees have to make the decision. Would they agree to spend the money in that fashion? There was a mistaken opinion that the council had the authority to unilaterally act, and the council does not, in my opinion. Government costs are already too high. We just went through a tremendously agonizing position to find money for 50 police officers from July 1 to Jan. 1. And we will return in December to try to find 50 more. A half-million dollars would provide eight to 10 of those officers. The time employees believe there is a great golden bucket at City Hall filled with money is over.

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