Posted by: lwagner10 | February 11, 2010

Marriage Equality

The obvious gorilla in the room for LGBT diversity is marriage equality. It seems like this is not really a corporate issue as most companies now recognize same sex relationships in line with the local legalities but it does have a large impact. In general, many companies try to provide commensurate benefits to same-sex partners. AT&T’s recent reversal of denying a leave for an employee to care their ill partner (married couples are legally assured of this type of leave) is a good reflection of companies being serious about providing equal benefits and aligning benefits where discrepancies are found. Most companies would prefer to avoid the issue of taking sides in the legal process which is reasonable if the company generally tries to keep out the political arena. Reasons are apparent looking at companies which donated to either side of Proposition 8 in California. Taking political sides on any issue poses risks as companies frequently come under great pressure from one customer constituency or other. Tax exempt non-profits should have been doing the same thing for other reasons, protecting tax exemptions. Separation of church and state has come under greater scrutiny in much of this debate. Churches have become politically focused organization whenever they feel the need. As such, they are not entitled to tax exemptions. They take this inane approach of saying that their freedom of speech is being challenged. No one is saying they can’t have political views and express them as they fit and spend their money on campaigns. They just can’t be a tax exempt organization anymore (thinking churches are really non-profit organizations in equally laughable in many cases). If they believe so strongly that they need to be politically active, they should do the morally correct thing and give up the tax exemption. Something about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Note that they also give up tax deductions for their donors. The various governments of this country can really use the money right now. 

Actually, separation of church and state are at the heart of the debate. The duality of marriage as a religious sacrament and a civil legal contract is the real issue. It is the civil recognition of relationships that creates great hardships for same sex couples, settlement of estates, hospital visitation etc.  The reality is that legal contract of marriage is the realm of the government as the sacramental side is for the church. The Catholic Church particularly does not recognize any civil marriage or even marriage performed by other faiths.  In many cases, they have refused to perform interfaith marriages. Precedent for churches refusing to recognize or perform sex marriages is well established so the fear of being forced to perform ceremonies seems moot rationalization. The reality is that recognition of same sex marriage is a practical way to recognize the civil contract of same sex relationships. Civil union nomenclature greatly complicates the issue unnecessarily. Thousands upon thousands of laws would potentially need to be rewritten to accommodate civil equality of the same sex relationships.  At the same time, it simplifies life for companies.  It obviates the need for the same recoding of policies to create real equality in business practices.  It also gets companies out of creating artificial definitions of partnership such as 6 months of cohabitation. Such artificial definitions seem needed to define a relationship for domestic partner benefits purposes without any factual basis. Marriage equality would also bring an end to domestic partnership benefits creating the need for a bridge to cover employees until they can legally marry.

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