Civil Liberties

Friends With Benefits

Targeting gay employees.


Ohio's Miami University offers domestic partners of gay employees the same benefits–health and dental insurance, recreation center discounts, tuition waivers–that it extends to the spouses of married employees. That doesn't sit well with state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Cincinnati), who in November filed a suit alleging the state-funded school's policy violates an anti?gay marriage amendment to the state constitution that voters passed overwhelmingly in 2004.

In addition to defining marriage as a one-man, one-woman arrangement, the amendment stipulated that the state "shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." But the official fact sheet on the amendment circulated to voters by the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage claimed that it "does not interfere in any way with government benefits granted to persons in non-marital homosexual relationships, so long as the government does not grant those benefits to such persons specifically for the reason that the relationship is one that seeks to imitate marriage."

Brinkman's suit, which he filed in his capacity as a taxpayer with the help of the Arkansas-based Alliance Defense Fund, argues that the effect of Miami University's policy is precisely to recognize a "marriage-mimicking" relationship, and that it therefore diminishes the institution of marriage. A gender-neutral domestic partner benefit, available to gay and heterosexual couples alike, Brinkman avers, "would be fine."? What he objects to, he says, is the offering of benefits exclusively to same-sex couples as a sort of substitute for those they could obtain if they were able to marry. Miami University spokesperson Richard Little disagrees. "This is a compensation policy, a purely economic decision designed to make us competitive in the marketplace," he says. "This is not a dowry."??