Who’s Hate-filled and Bitter? Marriage, Domestic Partner Benefits & Fairness Ordinance

Hypocrisy meter graphic by "askgriff" of Deviant Art

On December 2, 2011, we published an article entitled “NU Domestic Partner Benefits: Trying to Keep Up With The (Immoral) Joneses”, about the Nebraska Board of Regents’ consideration of a policy to extend University of Nebraska system employee benefits to employees’ homosexual and unmarried co-habitating couples. The 2011 article received a comment last month which seemed worth pointing out to readers. But first, some follow-up is in order.

That December 2011 article was very well read when originally published and resulted in lively discussion over a period of several days. It still receives regular readership, despite the amount of time that’s passed.

According to public comments from Board of Regents members who supported “domestic partner” benefits at the end of 2011, the decision was necessary to ensure the University of Nebraska system would be competitive with other universities and colleges regarding retaining and attracting faculty and staff. As I noted at the time, the statistical evidence didn’t support that argument. By the most generous assessment, only about 10% of U.S. universities and colleges extend such benefits. Supportive Regents didn’t give a rational defense.  Perhaps they didn’t have one.

 Blessing_of_the_Young Couple Before Marriage, painting by Pascal Dagnan Bouveret
Blessing of the Young Couple Before Marriage, by Pascal Dagnan Bouveret

Besides all other problems with the proposed policy, GiN reader, Michael, reminded us that in 2000, Nebraskans voted ~70% in favor of an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Nebraska which explicitly prohibited the official recognition of same-sex relationships, domestic partnerships and civil unions. It also expressly limited official marriage only to that between a man and a woman. We published Michael’s letter to the Board of Regents several days after the domestic partnership article.

Despite efforts to follow up regarding whether the Board of Regents would approve the extension of domestic partner benefits, for a time, even a couple of months later, I couldn’t find anything. Although a vote was scheduled for December 8, the Board tabled the issue when public attention to it increased in November and December. Apparently, members simply wanted to wait people out.

It may well be that the issue of the 2000 constitutional amendment slowed things down, because that potential legal problem was mentioned in the June 9, 2012, Omaha-World Herald article which reported that the Board voted to approve partner benefits, 5-3 (formerly/http://www.omaha.com/article/20120608/NEWS01/706089890). A supportive Regent cited a legal opinion which concluded the new policy wouldn’t violate the state’s constitution. Since we’ve not conducted any specific research as of this writing, all I can say is, the policy doesn’t seem to live up to the spirit of the law as defined by that amendment. See footnote 1 for a list of how the 8 Board members voted specifically and for notes regarding changes to membership due to the 2012 Election. [ref]Voting to approve were Chuck Hassebrook, Howard Hawks, Jim McClurg, Kent Schroeder, and Bob Whitehouse. Voting against were Tim Clare, Randy Farlic, and Bob Phares. A number of the Board members have changed since 2012 was an election year. Members still on the Board who were members in June 2012, are:  In favor – Howard Hawks, Kent Schroeder, and Bob Whitehouse; Against – Tim Clare and Bob Phares. I have not investigated the question of whether or not any of the non-voting members, whether they were present and not voting or absent from the meeting, are still on the Board, and whether or not they approved or disapproved of the proposal. To see the current list of Board members and to find contact information, see the official Board of Regents members page, here. [/ref]

During the period between the original article and the decision by the Board, the obviously related issue of the Lincoln “Fairness Ordinance” erupted (Omaha had previously passed a nearly identical ordinance), about which readers can refresh memories in more detail from a list of available articles found in the footnote[ref] List of our articles about the City of Lincoln “Fairness Ordinance”: City of Lincoln Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Referendum Petition Drive, Why Every Lincoln Voter Should Sign Referendum Petition, Why Process Matters, LAST CALL: Not Signed a Petition Yet? AND A Toast [/ref]. In brief, the Lincoln City Council passed an ordinance in April 2012, to create a new class under existing anti-discrimination provisions, which included homosexuals and “transgender” individuals.  The action by the Council was illegal under Nebraska law. Also, what advocates call a “Fairness Ordinance”, I and others recognize as a violation of First Amendment free exercise of religion provisions. And that’s just the overview.

Lincoln Ordinance Equality ScalesWhile the overwhelmingly successful petition drive to prohibit the ordinance from going into effect and to force the City of Lincoln to hold an election on the measure did indefinitely suspend the ordinance, to this day the election required by law has not taken place. There have since been three opportunities to allow Lincoln citizens to vote on the issue without the additional expense of a special election: the November 2012 General Election, the 2013 April local Primary, and the 2013 May General Election. Fully exploiting what is clearly a legal loophole – there is no deadline established within the Lincoln City Charter or Municipal Code by which officials must carry out the required election – City officials decided to follow the lead of the Board of Regents (and many politicians before them), and wait people out.

Meanwhile, advocates for mainstreaming and institutionalizing a list of policies such as those mentioned and more, attempted an end-run around the citizens of Lincoln and sought assistance from political allies in the Nebraska Unicameral. Several bills were introduced in the legislative session convened in January 2013, (by Senators Danielle Conrad, Sara Howard, and Jeremy Nordquist) although they didn’t move through the process completely by adjournment in June. It could be due to the reportedly significant negative attention. Since our State Legislature runs in two-year session cycles, the bills will certainly resurface in January 2014 (referred to as carry-over bills). Advocates within the Legislature may have decided to wait people out. (Yes, the pattern is difficult to ignore, isn’t it?)

It’s with some irony I conclude this brief round up, as I’ll now return to the matter of the July comment we received on the December 2011 domestic partner benefits article. It doesn’t seem that things are going all that well for those of us who oppose such policies. At best, we’re left to hover over governing bodies like we have nothing else to do, or periodically checking, only to discover officials passed policies while we were all looking the other way. In one case – the Lincoln City Council – the rule of law has been turned on its head (and it’s not the first time or the only issue).

nu domestic partner benefits article snap grassrootsne.com website
Click to visit original article and comments

Specifically regarding the Board of Regents, commenter Anna got her way, yet she was still motivated to comment, thus:

“Wow. Ignorant fools. The lot of you. You shouldn’t have to “pay” for domestic partnership benefits? Rest assured, homosexuals would rather not have to pay for all the benefits they aren’t able to have due to ignorance of prideful heterosexuals like yourselves. I bet you agreed with Hilter having sent homosexuals to concentration camps to purge the world of anyone different than you. Heterosexuals have long abused the sanctity of marriage. Divorce rates themselves for heterosexuals present day are to be ashamed of. The benefits and pay military service members steal from taxpayers for faux marriages between friend arrangements are embarrassing for a veteran like myself. You’re bitter about two consensual adults in consensual love, just like any other heterosexual couple, feel it necessary to have the ability to provide for their life partner just as equally as “acceptable” heterosexuals?? Wow. Just….wow. And to alter the discussion to pedophiles and sexual abuse and lean the blame on homosexuals…… Seriously??? People that sexually abuse other people are twisted people in a league of their own!! Just because a man attracted to young boys claims to be homosexual due to the same sex attraction only makes him a pedophile, not a sane person. Homosexual is full of judgemental, ignorant stereotypes due to media propaganda. So are minority ethnicities. Would you like to add “white supremists” to your list of ignorance as well?? You can twist anything around and go off on irrelevant tangents in attempt to justify your narcissistic ignorance. Two consenting adults in mutual love, regardless of same or opposite sex, are entitled to equally care for their life long partners. People like the lot of you make me question why I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for FREEDOM when it just goes unappreciated by arrogant, ignorant, selfish fools like yourselves. “You don’t care what people do in the privacy of one’s home”…..so why pitch such a hissy fit for people other than you paying for YOUR benefits and wanting some of their own?? There will be a day that all of America will accept homosexuals as equally as heterosexuals and you all will be the lagging ignorant fools still hateful out of spite, just like every other civil rights movement. Pathetically pointless.”

My reply:

“Anna,

Although your remarks violate policies on this site regarding comments (available for reading, here), it’s important that future visitors interested in this subject are allowed to see what is a representative example of comments we’ve received on this site in the past from people who advocate for mainstreaming homosexual marriage and institutionalizing it within government policy.

We don’t believe any additional response is necessary since you’ve supplied all that readers need to assess the merits of your positions. As far as being “hate-filled” and “bitter”, we are going to re-post the article with your comments, so readers can know how you came to your conclusions and perhaps decide who hates whom.

Shelli”

Finally, many people are likely to wonder: What is to be done? Of course, the first step is prayer, the second contemplation:

  • Reconsider criteria used for choosing information sources and any political donations, volunteering, and voting. I realize that’s a broad statement, but, something’s clearly gone awry. I think it’s worth spending the time contemplating – each and everyone of us – what responsibility we may have had in getting here. Can it really always be “everyone else” who has made errors?

Beyond that, if you’re looking for something active:

  • Let other people who you believe are likely to be interested, know about these events. I suspect the reason for these problems is not a huge swing in Nebraskans’ sentiments on the issues, but lack of awareness of their officials’ actions. If you think this or other articles on our site are informative and would like to share them with others, I recommend taking advantage of the sharing buttons, below, which include options to print out, email, or post to social media.
  • Consider taking a stand when appropriate opportunities arise, rather than remaining silent. The majority of Nebraskans are very nice people, so nice, in fact, I think we’re killing ourselves with “kindness”. If we don’t start thoughtfully articulately our principles in greater numbers when it’s appropriate to do so, even one person at a time, the silence will continued to be filled with advocates, who are increasingly getting their way.
  • Contact the elected officials in the relevant governing bodies noted above. 

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Hypocrisy meter, by “askgriff” of Deviant Art

Blessing of the Young Couple Before Marriage, by Pascal Dagnan Bouveret, public domain

Additional graphics by GiN, see Copyright statement

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