I'm in the middle of writing an article about a case from Westchester County, NY, in which a teacher, Kathe McBride, sued the school district for which she worked when it instituted domestic partner employee benefits for same-sex partners only. She wanted benefits for the man she had lived with for over 30 years. The Westchester County Human Rights Commission agreed that this amounted to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status. A New York appeals court disagreed, and before the highest court in New York could hear the case, the parties settled.
But here's the other part of that story. Effective July 24, 2011, the day same-sex couples achieved the right to marry in New York, McBride's employer ended DP benefits entirely. Now the 7000+ employees must marry or forego the ability to extend the economic and emotional security of adequate health care to their partners.
Once upon a time, back when domestic partner employee benefits started at the Village Voice in 1982, they were for gay and straight couples alike and demonstrated respect for the choice not to marry -- a choice that no one's health care should depend upon. They were about family diversity. A decade later, some employers started covering same-sex partners only, reasoning that it was a gay rights issue because gay couples could not marry. Those employers had no problem with requiring straight couples to marry.
On June 4, an event in New York will examine how far we've come...for better and for worse...from the days when domestic partnership benefits were about making marriage matter less. The Ettelbrick Project for LGBTQ Family Recognition at the Stonewall Community Foundation is presenting a program, "The Day Domestic Partnership Dies: Rolling Back Family Reform." Paula Ettlebrick spent her entire career supporting equality and justice, which means she always argued that marriage should not be gatekeeper to family recognition. Terry Boggis serves Paula's memory well with this special Pride month program. I hope it gets a large audience and lots of press coverage.