Unintended Consequences in Massachusetts

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Many big companies doing business in Massachusetts, including Raytheon, the New York Times Corp. and IBM, have decided to phase-out health care benefits for the unmarried same-sex partner of their employees, the Boston Globe reports:

Massachusetts companies, some of which pioneered so-called domestic-partner benefits for unmarried, same-sex partners, said they are now withdrawing them for reasons of fairness: If gays and lesbians can now marry, they should no longer receive special treatment in the form of health benefits that were not made available to unmarried, opposite-sex couples.

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  1. Well, that’s only fair, isn’t it?

  2. Why not apply a common-law framework to unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples alike? If both partners have cohabited for, say, five years, then regardless of state sanction, have the company consider them de facto married.

  3. It would be nice if these companies maintained this “special treatment” until society figures out that private decisions made by consenting adults is their own fucking business.

  4. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6685653/

    Canada’s Supreme Court OKs gay marraige (but doesn’t mandate it).

  5. Has the fabric of society been destroyed yet? Various posters on this forum have assured me for a year now that the fabric of society is due to unravel any minute now, thanks to gay marriage.

    I wonder how this latest development factors into their end-of-days itinerary.

  6. thoreau,

    It’s not an end-of-days itinerary: It’s an end-of-Gays itinerary.

    WSDave

  7. thoreau,

    I am sure they are going to go “Pol Pot” soon enough. 🙂

  8. Will the destruction of society at least be accompanied by some hot girl-on-girl action?

  9. Whatever these companies do, I don’t really care. They can make any policy they want. I just don’t want the government to make that policy (any more than acknowledging marriage, taxation, regulation, licensing, etc…..I guess it’s too late already).

  10. I will say that the Mass state requirements, combined with DOMA at the federal level, have made benefits in multi state companies a flaming nightmare. Pending some case law, no one knows how to comply with both at the same time, especially if there is any portion of a benefit attributable to insurance.

  11. “Whatever these companies do, I don’t really care. They can make any policy they want. I just don’t want the government to make that policy (any more than acknowledging marriage, taxation, regulation, licensing, etc…..I guess it’s too late already).”

    Just because you don’t like government interference in business doesn’t mean you can’t be appalled by unethical business practices.

    People like you are exactly why most people favor government intervention in private industry.

  12. Perhaps I should have clarified that I can’t stop companies from making such decisions and that whatever decision is made it should ethically be fair without regard for race, creed, marital status, or sex. That being said, I don’t have to patronize these companies, but it’s people who can’t stop at being appalled, and, through force of government or lawsuit will impose their will on others.

    So, by my not wanting government to interfere, I am actually responsible for its interference….? What?

  13. Jim Anderson,

    Why not apply a common-law framework to unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples alike?

    I would imagine Massachusetts already has a common law marriage provision which presumably applies now to gays. But not all domestic partners automatically want to marry. Gays who were getting benefits under domestic partner provisions that are being rescinded must now decide whether to get married (whatever procedure they use) or else lose the benefits they had.

  14. andy,

    What unethical business practices are you referring to?

    fyodor,

    Common-law marraige laws are becoming rarer by the decade last time I looked at the issue.

  15. Gary Gunnels,

    What do mean, the laws establishing those provisions are being voted off the books?

  16. Massachusetts does not recognize common law marriages. Unless, of course, those marriages were established in another state.

  17. Okay, I googled a bit and found that Colorado, where I live, is, according to one website, one of 12 remaining states that accept common law marriage, which apparently was a common law thing never established by statute.

    Point taken then.

    But my larger point is that it’s a separate issue and the new situation means that gays must face a decision they didn’t need to before, regardless of whether Massachussetts accepts common law marriages or not.

  18. “That being said, I don’t have to patronize these companies, but it’s people who can’t stop at being appalled, and, through force of government or lawsuit will impose their will on others”

    My point was just that. You can not patronize them. If you do, then yes, you are implicit in their actions. The way you made it sound was that you’d patronize any business regardless of its practices, you just wouldn’t want GOV interference with them. I guess I was wrong, but make yourself more clear in the future.

  19. Gary : “What unethical business practices are you referring to?”

    I was talking about in general.

  20. fyodor,

    Yes. In most states in the United States today, there’s no such thing as common law marriage (as I recall its recognize in a little over a dozen states and D.C.). Plus the notion that it is automatic after seven years is a myth; you have to actually act like a married couple, tell people you are married, etc., for it to kick in. One state that recently got rid of common law marraige is Ohio (though common law marraiges created before 2003 are still recognized).

  21. There was confusion, andy, because it’s sometimes difficult portray sarcasm in type. THe whole original comment was meant to be mostly tongue-in-cheek.

  22. The entire rationale for a common law marraige doesn’t exist (in the U.S.) anymore anyway. It was a legal doctrine created in England and imported to the U.S. so that the poor, those whole lived in rural areas, etc., who couldn’t get access to a J.P. could get married anyway. Interestingly – though the doctrine creates different rights there – something like 15% of Canada’s marraiges are common law marraiges.

  23. I apologize. I saw somewhere that this symbol means “tongue and cheek” :’)

    I just don’t know how many people would understand it. 😛

  24. Well, the whole domestic partner thing was created to fill the (perceived) legal gap left by the lack of gay marriage.

    With gay marriage available, the legal gap has been filled, and the stopgap is no longer needed. How hard is that?

    Complaining because they face the exact same choices as straights and get the exact same benefits is not a good way for gay activists to convince people that they don’t want special treatment.

  25. must now decide whether to get married (whatever procedure they use) or else lose the benefits they had.

    Was that not the expected result of the “overwhelming victory for human rights” etc. that the SJC decision represented? It would be unconstitutional to force Massachusetts companies to offer benefits to non-married couples based solely on their sexual preference, especially now that the Commonwealth must allow those couples to obtain the same marriage licenses as straight couples.

    If you do, then yes, you are implicit in their actions.

    “Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you…”

  26. I what way, exactly, does the equal treatment of gay and straight couples constitute “unintended consequences”? It’s pure supposition on Mr. Doherty’s part to presume that campaigners for equality intended to maintain the domestic-partner exemption. On the contrary, Andrew Sullivan hails its removal as great news.

  27. “Why not apply a common-law framework to unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples alike? If both partners have cohabited for, say, five years, then regardless of state sanction, have the company consider them de facto married.”

    I have a better idea: if they want the rights and obligations of marriage, why not wait until they express a preference for those rights and obligations by, oh, I dunno, getting married?

  28. rst (and RC Dean, if you’re addressing me)

    If you think I’m saying this is a bad thing or unfair, I’m not. I was merely pointing out to Jim Anderson why commmon law marriage provisions are a separate issue.

  29. does the equal treatment of gay and straight couples constitute “unintended consequences”??

    Because special interest groups have issues with their successes chipping away at their status. Even progressives lament the death of chivalry, no matter how much they want society to reject the “because she’s a woman” line of reasoning.

  30. rst,

    I always love how a group one doesn’t like – in this case gay people – become a “special interest group.”

  31. “Will the destruction of society at least be accompanied by some hot girl-on-girl action?”

    thoreau,
    It will not.
    The destruction of society will be accompanied by some hot under-age girl on ME action, which is why the Rapture crowd can relax for a good long while.

  32. I always love how a group one doesn’t like

    That’s a baseless claim.

    If you think I’m saying this is a bad thing or unfair

    I hear you. I got into it with a lawyer friend over the fact that the couples have to surrender the benefits they have now. Apparently this is unfair.

  33. rst,

    What then makes homosexuals a “special interest group?”

  34. rst,

    Also, don’t blame me for pointing out that you are using a code phrase common amongst those who despise gay people.

  35. I recall that a year or so ago, a certain poster (who doesn’t seem to be with us anymore) got desperate and claimed that the benefits issues associated with gay marriage could send society over the brink: Either the associated cost would drive companies bankrupt, or else companies would get out of the benefits business altogether, destroying the American way of life.

    Whatever one might think of the many issues associated with employer-provided health insurance, it seems pretty clear that employers are adapting to it just fine.

    Any other justifications that the opponents of gay marriage would like to fall back on?

  36. CORRECTION

    employers are adapting to gay marriage just fine in regard to benefits

  37. thoreau,

    That was “Andrew” I believe.

    Do you like Elvis Costello?

  38. I don’t know much about Elvis Costello, so I have no opinion.

    Why do you ask?

  39. thoreau,

    Just listening to him and the question popped into my head. I have a “New Wave” mix CD I made on right now (which just changed to the ever popular “Der Kommisar” by Falco).

    http://www.lyrics007.com/Falco%20Lyrics/Der%20Kommisar%20Lyrics.html

  40. I vaguely recall something about Andrew and Elvis Costello. Maybe Andrew liked his music or something.

    Then again, my memory could easily be inaccurate.

    Gary, I don’t recall you in many of the old threads where Andrew and I debated gay marriage. Were you just lurking back then?

    Here’s a classic thread:

    https://reason.com/hitandrun/2004/03/the_x_president.shtml

    I have yet to hear a refutation of my argument in that thread.

  41. thoreau,

    Were you just lurking back then?

    Yeah, I was lurking.

  42. Well, it’s too bad you didn’t participate in some of those discussions. We had Jean Bart back then, as well as Shannon Love and Andrew. I know you’ve enjoyed locking horns with Shannon Love now and then, but he or she (does anybody know?) used to post more frequently. And you would have enjoyed locking horns with andrew as well. And you and Jean Bart probably would have agreed on a lot of things.

  43. As you might expect, Andrew Sullivan sees this as vindication:

    “Amen. My first piece on marriage rights for gays – fifteen years ago – was written precisely because I was worried that the plethora of domestic partnerships arrangements, civil unions, etc. was bound to weaken civil marriage as a social norm. Give ’em marriage! And once gays have marriage, you can and should then dismantle all other civil arrangements. At the time, this was theory. But now we see it happening in practice: clear proof that letting gays marry can strengthen, rather than undermine, the existing institution. Gay activists should quit their whining. Religious right activists should reconsider their opposition. Gay marriage really is the best option for all of us. “

  44. Sorry to be slightly off topic, but:

    Can anyone translate Der Kommisar for me? I love that tune and alway wondered what he was talking about. Falco was such a cool-ass freak.

    And thoreau, don’t you know jean, gary, and mr bourne are all the same person? 🙂

  45. Will you settle for the After the Fire version? It’s pretty close.
    http://www.80smusiclyrics.com/artists/afterthefire.htm

  46. And yes, “special rights” is code for “gays don’t deserve the same rights we have”. See: John Derbyshire and NR in general.

  47. If you do, then yes, you are implicit in their actions. The way you made it sound was that you’d patronize any business regardless of its practices, you just wouldn’t want GOV interference with them. I guess I was wrong, but make yourself more clear in the future.

    So what’s wrong with what they’re doing? You’re implying that these businesses are doing something unethical, amoral, or unfair. They’re adapting to the change in the law to provide exactly equal treatment to gays and straights. If that’s unethical in your book, fine, but if so, I’d like to see you justify that.

  48. db,

    As I said to Gary, I was talking about unethical practices in general, not commenting on this particular practice.

  49. And thoreau, don’t you know jean, gary, and mr bourne are all the same person? 🙂

    While I most definitely have my own opinions on the question “Who is Jean Bart?” I have agreed to keep those opinions to myself. I now take people at their word when they say that they aren’t Jean Bart.

    And because I’m taking them at their word, I couldn’t possibly be dropping any hints when I start telling somebody about how interesting Jean Bart was “back in the day.” Absolutely not. No way.

  50. thoreau – I figured as much, which is why I piped up. 😉

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