Domestic partner ordinance not just a bedroom issue

Domestic partner ordinance not just a bedroom issue

August 2nd, 2014 in Opinion Times

City Commissioner Chris Anderson speaks to a group from Yes Chattanooga on the front steps of City Hall in this file photo.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


In Thursday's general election and Democratic primary, the Times endorses:

Governor: John McKamey

U.S. Senator: Terry Adams

3rd District Congress: Mary Headrick

27th District, State House: Eric McRoy

County Mayor: Jim Coppinger

County Commission: District 1 Randy Fairbanks

District 6: John Allen Brooks

District 7: Ezra Maize

District 8: Kenny Smith

District 9: Melinda Bone

General Sessions Court, Division 1: Christie Sell

Juvenile Court: Yolanda Echols Mitchell

Public Defender: Ardena Garth

Criminal Court Clerk: Gwen Tidwell

Board of Education: District 3 Jim Watson

District 5: Karitsa Mosley

District 6: Ballard Scearce Jr.

District 8: David Testerman

District 9: Steve Highlander

Supreme Court Judges: Retain

Domestic Partner Ordinance: For

Vote "for" the Chattanooga Domestic Partnership ordinance on Thursday's ballot.

The ordinance would extend health and other benefits to domestic partners of city workers, something that will make the city more competitive and simply be more fair for same-sex and committed long-term partners.

It also will bring Chattanooga in line with what other cities, counties, states, some private businesses and the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service are moving toward: policies to give same-sex and live-in couples the same tax treatment and benefits as other married couples -- in keeping with the recent U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

It's true that Tennessee still has on its books a 7-year-old constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. But one-by-one, similar rules in the other 30 states that ban it are falling. This one will fall, too. The Supreme Court has spoken, and cities, states and employers who don't want to listen are simply inviting lawsuits. And those lawsuits will cost everybody.

Chattanooga officials have estimated that extending benefits to domestic partners will add less than $170,000 to the city's benefits expense.

Paying for the tea party-leaning Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency's petition drive to put this question -- which the City Council already had approved on a 5-4 vote -- on the Aug. 7 ballot and then paying for attorneys to argue how the ballot question would be worded has probably cost us taxpayers that much already.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already approve of same sex marriage: eight by court decision, eight by state legislatures and three by popular vote.

What about the so-called sanctity of marriage? Any and every marriage has sanctity when the couple believes in it. If anyone puts any further weight on the "sanctity" of wedded unions, just explain divorces.

Marriage has been and is redefined over and over as society's attitudes evolve.

Coverture, where a woman's legal rights and economic identity were subsumed by her husband upon marriage, was commonplace in 19th century America. Interracial marriage was illegal in many U.S. states until a 1967 Supreme Court decision. No-fault divorce has changed the institution of marriage since its introduction in California on Jan. 1, 1970.

Today the majority of Americans support gay marriage. A May 2013 Gallup poll found 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage, and a Vanderbilt poll in May of this year found that even in Tennessee, 49 percent of people said they support same-sex marriage or civil unions. The Vanderbilt poll also found that 62 percent of Tennesseans support health insurance and other employee benefits for gay and lesbian domestic workers in general.

It is time for the definition of marriage to evolve once again.