Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"I know Stan Lee, and you, sir, are no Stan Lee."

Tom just sent me this little nugget of intolerance, courtesy of the Lexington Herald Leader.

We've covered this ground before, but it is worth revisiting, now that state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington (not the Stan Lee, mind you, just a Stan Lee using his "convictions" to step for a brief moment into the local limelight) has sponsored a bill "to prohibit domestic partner benefits at Kentucky's public universities and community colleges."

Let me add a hearty AMEN to this comment from the executive director of the gay-rights Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Christina Gilgor:

"Lee is playing politics rather than acting in the best interest of Kentucky's families and children."

Simply put, moral considerations aside (and I think that you know where I stand on the moral considerations!) this bill is bad policy, potentially placing state universities at a competitive disadvantage. Kentucky has a bad enough reputation as a backwards and reactionary state - a reputation made worse by the amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions trumpeted by Lee - without codifying this poorly conceived piece of hate-legislation.

After thoroughly dissecting Lee's position in an earlier piece I've about run out of things to say on the subject. I'm happy to see that Lee is no longer building any sort of argument, save for the argument from political power. "The people" oppose anything resembling the equal treatment of homosexual persons, and he is bound to impose the will of those people on everyone he can.

While voting against this bill should be a no-brainer - anything that hurts education is bad for a state that already ranks toward the bottom in education - I wonder if, in this tense social and political climate, enough state legislators will have the courage to vote down a bill which plays to the moral intuition of much of the state. After all, a vote against this bill will be portrayed as a vote for homosexuality in the negative attack ads to come, and in this state that spells political doom.

8 comments:

Tom said...

It must be election time again.

Tyler Simons said...

ick.

Liam said...

I love this fine Christian country we live in, where you can always get votes by appealling to hatred of gays, Mexicans, and Muslims.

A long time ago on Brian's blog (I think, or was it yours?) we had a discussion about how the red state/ blue state dichotomy was mistaken in so many ways. But I do remember from living in Utah how frustrating it is to helplessly watch legislatures in conservative states pass laws that are both stupid and morally repugnant.

Keep speaking up, Chris, that's the only strength the good guys have.

Sandalstraps said...

Liam,

That discussion was at Brian's blog. I think that this is the one you have in mind.

Brian Beech said...

Sand,
This will be looked at as a vote for homosexuality because that is exactly what it is. These domestic partnership insurance rights did not come about until the recent push by many to make gay marriage legal. Trust me, I would have loved to have had the ability for my roommates and I to have insurance during college; I went without insurance for 7 years! This is to be a special law for homosexuals. It is not meant for college students that live together, it is strictly for homosexuals. People that do not agree with gay marriage or the homosexual lifestyle have a right, I think, to oppose such a law/bill.

Sandalstraps said...

Brian,

First off, let me say how sincerely happy I am that someone who disagrees with me left a comment. I can always count on you to represent an opposing view.

First off, here's a flippant question for you, in response to your flippant comment

Trust me, I would have loved to have had the ability for my roommates and I to have insurance during college; I went without insurance for 7 years!

Do you think that a committed, cohabitating homosexual relationship is more analagous to

a.) your relationship with your wife, or

b.) your relationship with your college roommates?

Seems to me the obvious answer is a.), though I'd hate to presume.

You say

This is to be a special law for homosexuals.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean here. The only law discussed so far is in the bill sponsored by Rep. Lee, which is, in fact, "a special law for homosexuals," though perhaps not in the way that you meant. The law is restrictive, preventing state universities from using their own discretion in determining employee benefit packages.

There is no law on the books or under consideration in the state of Kentucky which would in any way formally recognize homosexual unions. The University of Louisville announced that it was considering offering benefits to the domestic partners of employees, regardless of martial status (that is, spouce-like benefits for non-married heterosexuals in committed, cohabitational relationships with university employees, and also spouce-like benefits for homosexual partners of university employees). They did this because such a policy would better help them recruit talented faculty, not all of whom see heterosexual marriage as normative. The University of Kentucky later followed suit.

Since then Rep. Stan Lee has been banging the drums of the culture war, asking for the state legislature to intervene and prevent these universities from using their own judgment in this matter. This is the kind of government oversight that I thought you conservatives oppose! And, if it passes, it does place our universities at a competetive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting talented faculty, and to me that is a much more serious public issue than who does what with whom in the privacy of the bedroom.

Brian Beech said...

Sand,

Forgive the lapse in time...

In regards to your question 'Do you think that a committed, cohabitating homosexual relationship is more analagous to', and the multiple choice answers; allow me to ponder. This homosexual relationship that you speak of here, is it a monogamous relationship with two partners or is it a relationship with more than two people. If only two partners, why not extend these benefits to the relationship with more than two committed partners? Should we discriminate against them if they all truly love each other? Aren't they entitled the same benefits every other American has as a result of his/her relationship? My real question is, where do we draw the line? And, if drawn (which at some point it must be unless we have a socialistic society where the gov't gives insurance to everyone) how do we justify that line? Sorry, that may be another conversation for another time.

This 'consideration' by the university, with its impeccable timing, to extend benefits was purely done to appeal to the homosexual professors around the country. Educationally speaking, Kentucky may gain quite a few great professors from this move. Democratically speaking, if the people of Kentucky do not see this as something they want it should not be allowed. Since both universities are state schools that receive federal and state money, the voters should be able to influence these policies.

If Stan Lee does not think his voters want this, he is obligated, in the traditional sense of a representative, to be against this 'consideration'. This could easily be solved by putting these issues in a vote and letting the population of Kentucky decide the outcome. I assume we all believe it would be put down in a vote, so my next question is: Is it right that the minority should rule the state or the decisions the state is to make?

Whether or not this is a good idea is not something that I was trying to get into, but I can be forced to share my opinion. :) Although, I'm sure everyone know how I feel, even if it is not known why I feel the way I do.

Sandalstraps said...

Brian,

Some of these concerns were brought up the last time we discussed Stan Lee's opposition to the proposed benefits plans.

Pertaining to the extent to which taxpayer money would be spent "supporting" something which taxpayers don't support, Tom quoted the original Herald Leader article (no longer archived, alas) as saying:

U of L spokesman John Drees said the benefit won't cost taxpayers anything. Revenue from premiums is expected to cover the added expenses, he said. The university is self-insured, meaning it pays for health care expenses directly rather than contracting through an insurance company.

Since the public has no funds at stake, and since this would adversly impact the quality of education provided by the university (one of their stated reasons for the new benefits policy is to make them more competitive in terms of recruiting talented faculty) there seems to be no compelling public interest in intervening.

While we're tossing out slippery slope arguments, consider this:

How advisable is it for the legislative branch to step in and make decisions for an educational institution? What's next? Making curriculum decisions? Making hire/fire decisions? State funded (and it is by no means entirely state funded) education should not lead to state run education subject to the temporary political whims of the public and the power-hungry politicians who try to cater to them.

Anyone who favors a small government should see the wisdom of an argument which appeals to a limited meaning of "public interest." Additionally, I think that we are easily able to make a sharp distinction between "life partners" and any old cohabitating situation. I'm not sure exactly how the proposals by the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville make this distinction, so I can't speak to it. But it is not hard to imagine that sich a distinction exists. We can certainly recognize that difference when we see it, just as we can recognize the difference between you and your wife on one had, and my (male) friend and his non-romantic, non-committed (female) roommate; and that difference, as I'm sure you realze, lies beyond just legal status.