The Minnesota Independent caught something I’d missed in a letter Governor Tim Pawlenty sent to two state legislators last week (and copied the press on).
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he wouldn’t sign a bill that contained health benefits for same-sex couples. The omnibus state government bill currently being negotiated in conference committee provides domestic partner benefits for state employees. Pawlenty named that the top reason he wouldn’t sign the bill.
“The House bill requires that state-paid health insurance must be made available to domestic partners if a collective bargaining agreement or plan provides state paid health insurance to spouses,” [Pawlenty] wrote. “The bill extends benefits to both same sex and opposite sex partners, I oppose this provision and will not sign a bill that includes this expansion of benefits.”
Project 515, whose name refers to the 515 current Minnesota laws that discriminate against same-sex couples and their families, provides an example of how unfairness in benefits affects same-sex couples and their children:
Emily was covered by her partner’s insurance, according to Minnesota State Employees domestic partner benefits. She returned to school full time to pursue her doctorate degree and then gave birth to the couple’s first child in 2003.
Unable to return to work because of pregnancy-related illness, Emily was horrified to learn that elimination of domestic partner benefits from the state’s insurance policy was being proposed as a budget-balancing solution. Not only was Emily forced to find coverage for herself, the couple’s son was not covered until the second parent adoption was completed five months following his birth.
"I don’t think most Minnesotans want to live in a state in which the health benefits of a working couple and their family are sacrificed for budget balancing," said Emily. "If the state wants to compete with other major employers for the best people, it needs to offer benefits comparable to what Minnesota companies are providing."