The quest for anything resembling equal rights in Kentucky was dealt a huge blow yesterday when the Attorney General's office ruled that the policies at our state's two flagship universities (the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville) that would have allowed unmarried domestic partners of university employees access to health care plans are unconstitutional. You can read the Lexington Herald Leader's article here and the Louisville Courier-Journal's article here.
Here are all of my previous posts on the subject:
More Fuel for the Culture War's Fire, posted on July 15, 2006
"I know Stan Lee, and you, sir, are no Stan Lee", posted on October 18, 2006
Update on Domestic Partner Benefits at Kentucky Universities, posted on January 1, 2007
While Attorney General Stumbo's declaration is a strong blow against the effort to both improve the quality of state universities by allowing them to have more competitive packages with which to attract highly coveted talent, and to in at least one small way recognize the equality of gays and lesbians, I seriously doubt that this is the final word on the subject. This may, however, make life a little more difficult for Jack Conway, the Democrat candidate for Attorney General. He is running against the infamous wingnut lambasted here more than once, Stan Lee, who has made is political career torching gays.
There are a few interesting points here, worth taking at least a second to consider. The first is that yesterday's decision does not expressly tie health benefits to marriage. While both UK and U of L's plans were declared unconstitutional, the Attorney General's office did say that if they changed their definition of "domestic partner" to include anyone who happens to be living with a university employee, then that might be constitutionally permissible. At issue in this case, then, is not the expanding of health care benefits to include non-married partners, but rather the definition of "domestic partner," which is seen as being enough like "marriage" to violate the politically-motivated and totally unnecessary 2004 amendment to our state's constitution banning "gay marriage" or any similarly recognized arrangement.
The second is that Stan Lee, now running as the Republican candidate for Attorney General, is still not above lying about the plans in question. Once again, Mr. Lee has mischaracterized the universities' policies, telling the Courier Journal, "[A]s elected officials, we have a duty to be good stewards. At a time when our college students are facing double-digit tuition increases, this could be a tremendous waste of resources." However, all either of these plans allowed anyone to do was to buy health coverage. There would have been no loss of state or university money, as any additional costs were to be paid for by the domestic partners buying into the plan.
Additionally, according to the Herald Leader, Lee - despite the fact that the Attorney General's office essentially has agreed with him - is still trying to use this as a political office, attacking Attorney General Stumbo, a Democrat, for moving too slowly. He's also antagonizing for a special legislative session to, in his own words (as quoted in the Herald Leader) "finish this issue once and for all."
Finally, Jack Conway, the Democrat candidate for Attorney General (and, I should add, prohibitive favorite to win the election) seems to be trying hard not to trip over this political landmine, telling the Herald Leader that he agrees with Stumbo's decision. It will be very hard for him to find a way to lose to a lunatic like Lee, but if this becomes a bigger issue, blinding people to Lee's incompetence, he just might.
'Gotta love politics in this backwards state!
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