20 Years from DP Benefits to Marriage

As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz and I both predicted 20 years ago(!), domestic partner benefits may be left behind in an era when all couples can get married. David’s May 13 blog post at the Cato at Liberty blog takes note of the long road from then to now. He also links to both recent Wall Street Journal coverage on this development (“Firms Tell Gay Couples: Wed or Lose Your Benefits“), and my January blog post (“Domestic Partner Benefits Are (Almost) Passé“).

For the historically minded, two decades ago David addressed the issue here, among other places, and I did so here.

4 Comments for “20 Years from DP Benefits to Marriage”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    If a company sees a competitive advantage to providing “domestic partner benefits” to unmarried couples, gay/lesbian and/or straight, it seems to me that the policies are the company’s business, not ours, and certainly not the government’s. It seems to me, as well, that if a company elects to discontinue the practice, that is also the company’s business, not ours, and certainly not the government’s.

    In the 1980’s companies began providing domestic partner benefits as a way to reduce the unequal treatment of gay/lesbian couples, who could not marry. Obviously, as marriage becomes a nationwide fact-on-the-ground, that rationale has diminished and, to a great extent, disappeared.

    However, that is not the whole story. As the practice of providing domestic partner benefits to unmarried gay/lesbian couples began to play out, many company’s began to recognize that providing domestic partner benefits to all unmarried couples, gay/lesbian or straight, made a lot of competitive sense in a world where straights are marrying later, or not marrying at all.

    The strong whiff of moral disapproval of providing “domestic partner benefits” to unmarried straight couples, and your apparent disapproval of companies electing to do so, in your 1994 post (“Honey, Did You Raise the Kids?” Stephen H. Miller on January 14, 1994) strikes me as odd coming from a self-described libertarian. A corporate nanny state is just as much a nanny state as a government nanny state.

    My view is this: So long as a company treats gays and lesbians on the same basis as the company treats straights, fine by me.

    • posted by Jeff on

      Believing that private businesses are entitled to compensate employees as they please, and arguing that it’s not a good idea to offer partner benefits when couples can wed, is not inconsistent for libertarians (neither it is a mandatory view). Liberals and conservatives think libertarians are libertines, which is not the case. As a libertarian (or libertarian leaning) pundit, Stephen can critique tactics and strategies he thinks are not in the interest of LGBT legal equality, or indeed, are not sound policy.

      What impresses me is that this blog has been around, with Stephen the principal blogger, for 20 years. That’s rather impressive. Most of the stable commenters have been around here a fraction of that time.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Jeff, I don’t pretend to be a libertarian, or even of a libertarian frame of mind, so I won’t try to argue with you about what libertarians believe or don’t believe.

      I believe in allowing men and women to make their own choices about how to live their lives, except when society has a clear and critical reason to curtail that freedom in order to protect the common good.

      I don’t think that the government should arbitrate individual morality, abortion for example, unless the government has a compelling need to do so in order to protect the common good, and does so in the least restrictive way possible. It seems to me that individual men and women should be making that decision, not the government. It is for that reason that, although I believe that most abortions are immoral, the government should not be involved.

      If the government, as I believe, should butt out of most decisions that affect individuals, leaving individuals in charge of their own actions, it seems to me inconsistent to also believe that employers should butt in to decisions individuals are capable of making for themselves. That’s the point I was making, and it doesn’t seem to me to be a “libertine” position to think that employers should butt out and let individuals live their own lives unless the employer has a clear business-related reason to get involved.

      I can support business policies that require “clean and sober” while on the job, and hence business drug testing and so on, because having employees who are not impaired on the job is a sensible business-related objective. But how is it the business of business to shape employee’s living arrangements, or their sexual lives, or their choice of whether or not to marry?

      I may be more sensitive to the dangers of “business as nanny” than younger people precisely because I am older, and grew up in the 1950’s, when government, church and business culture combined to create a cultural conformity that was stifling and sucked the life out of individual freedom. Folks who did not conform to cultural norms — single women and divorced women, for example — were marginalized and looked down upon. Any display of individual freedom was frowned upon and penalized. Much of the “60’s rebellion” was a reaction to the cultural straight jacket, and we are better off without it, quite frankly.

      I’ve been around IGF for about 15 years now, and I have been actively commenting since 2003 or 2004. I’ve come to know Stephen’s thinking a bit during that time, and it does seem to me to be much more closely aligned with cultural conformity than my own — Stephen has been nagging for years, for example, about the image created by the “excesses” of gay culture (think Pride parades) and harping about the need to clean up in order to be accepted by cultural conservatives.

      But I was surprised to see Stephen, in his 1994 post, suggesting that businesses should be a “shadow government” in terms of creating cultural conformity, doing what the government should be disallowed from doing. I take you are your word that libertarians can find that exercise of power over individuals acceptable. But I think that it is wrongheaded.

  2. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    i suspect that until the legal landscape regarding same-sex marriage actually settles down in favor of equality, pulling the plug on DP benefits would be really complicated and messy for any major business.

    Some States do not recognize same-sex marriage (or are likely going to drag their heels on making the appropriate legal changes. So, from a purely legal perspective their is arguably still a need for DP benefits.

    I believe that in some nations, what the government/private sector did was (after marriage equality has taken root) stopped offering new DP benefits, but basically ‘grandfathered’ current DP benefit couples (who could choose to have their DP made into a civil marriage, but were not required to).

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