Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kansas: Lawrence school board candidates support domestic partner benefits

By Diane Silver

Four candidates for the Lawrence school board have clearly stated their support for domestic partner benefits for school employees.

That information comes from a local teacher who passed on the results of a Lawrence Education Association candidate survey. Among the many questions asked by the survey was: "Would you support your school district providing domestic partner benefits?"

The four candidates who said "yes" without hesitation or equivocation, in alphabetical order, are:
  • Michael Machell (although he may be leaving himself an out. See his reply below.)
  • Marlene Merrill
  • Rich Minder
  • Michael Pomes
On a personal note, I always voted for Mary Loveland, but after reading her all-over-the-place reply to this very straight-forward question, I'm going to have to vote for someone else on April 3.

Details of all the candidates replies are below.

Note that domestic partner benefits are not the same as a domestic partner registry. A registry is being considered by the city of Lawrence at the same time that the state Legislature is looking at banning registries. And yes, this is all a tad confusing.

Briefly, domestic partner benefits are offered by many Fortune 500 companies, governments and nonprofit organizations. These are health insurance and other employee benefits given to domestic partners, usually both same-sex and heterosexual. A registry is a list of the names of couples, usually both same-sex and heterosexuals, who declare themselves to be domestic partners and fit certain criteria.

Here are the responses that the Lawrence Education Association received. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Mary Loveland
I did not anticipate this question. I hope I can express my thoughts clearly. I think that benefits should be extended to someone other than an employee only when there is a contractual relationship between the employee and the other person. Marriage is the traditionally expected contractual relationship between two persons. I think for benefits to be extended to "domestic partners", whether the partner is the same or a different gender than the employee, there should be a legal contract authorizing the benefit.

Many couples jointly own property without being married. Perhaps as they share assets they should think about the legal protection of an appropriate contract if that is possible. Perhaps the registry under consideration by the city commission would constitute such a contract.

I am not a lawyer and do not know. But I do think the relevant legal issues need to be settled before the district could offer benefits.
Michael Machell
Yes I would. However, I would need to fully understand the implications of this decision for our compensation and benefits budget.
Marlene Merrill
Yes. I think it is a matter of not discriminating.

We do not discriminate against race, religion, or gender so we should not discriminate against sexual preference. Also, from the point of view of a compassionate employer, the district should permit people in a long term domestic partnership to have family health insurance, and other family oriented benefits.
Rich Minder
Scott Morgan
I don't have any moral objections to this. However, it would fall into a new program such as you ask about in question two.

Although it affects overall compensation, the financial consequences would have to be understood and considered. I know this has been implemented elsewhere so I would want to see the details of how it works.
Michael Pomes
Victor Sisk
I do not know about the legal or non-legal concerns revolving around this issue. At this time I cannot provide a knowledgeable answer to this question.

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