While we’re working towards marriage equality for same-sex couples who want the same rights as their heterosexual equals, the City of Asheville can take a step toward social justice by offering same-sex health benefits to its employees.
City employees are currently empowered to include their spouses on their health plans and can take bereavement leave in the case of a spouse’s death. Same-sex couples, even if legally married in another state, are not eligible.
The gay and lesbian citizens of Asheville deserve equal recognition and equal benefits. To deny these benefits is to relegate gay and lesbian couples to second-class status. We all know that Asheville is a gay-friendly city, and our city government ought to reflect our commitment to honoring the civil rights of all our citizens.
Cities across America have included domestic partnership benefits in their health plans, and many have gone a step further to require that contractors provide domestic partner benefits as well. Given Asheville’s vibrant gay and lesbian culture, recognizing their committed relationships is the only just way forward.
What is the definition of a domestic partner?
- Have lived together at least six months.
- Are both age 18 or older.
- Share a close personal relationship and are responsible for each other’s common welfare.
- Are exclusive.
- Are not married to anyone else.
- Are not related by blood closer than would bar marriage in the state.
- Share the same regular and permanent residence, with the current intent to continue doing so indefinitely.
- Are jointly financially responsible for “basic living expenses,” defined as the cost of basic food, shelter and any other expenses of a domestic partner because of the domestic partnership. (Domestic partners need not contribute equally or jointly to the cost of these expenses as long as they agree that both are responsible for the cost.)
- Were mentally competent to consent to the contract when the domestic partnership began.
If elected to City Council, I will be a strong advocate for domestic partner benefits. Social justice benefits everyone, and the current inequity is a stain on Asheville’s social justice aspirations.