Allow same-sex benefits and ratify union contract

Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives seem poised to cast perhaps the most irresponsible vote in the last six months: vetoing the state workers’ negotiated contract because they don’t like the idea of same-sex benefits.

From the negotiated-settlement standpoint alone, vetoing the contract is a poor idea. There is no justifiable reason for instigating a reprise of the largest state-worker strike in history after a settlement has been reached. Reneging on the agreement now will make future union negotiations exponentially more difficult and will undermine any reasons union members might have to trust legislators.

House republicans compounded the problem by basing it on flawed, antiquated reasoning. As justification for their threat, representatives cited financial and logistical complications as reasons why same-sex benefits would not work. Heterosexual couples, they said, would be at a disadvantage because health benefits would not be extended to a boyfriend or girlfriend of the opposite sex. Since Minnesota does not recognize same-sex marriages, the state would be left to determine who is involved in “a committed relationship,” Rep. Tony Kielkucki, R-Lester Prairie, told the Daily last week.

Since the state obviously cannot assume those responsibilities in any great detail, the benefits will have to be applied broadly. Therefore, if the benefits are to be extended to nearly anyone involved in a same-sex relationship, the state will run out of money, say republicans.

While the argument raises some valid points, it conveniently ignores the most obvious solution: recognition of same-sex marriages. Representatives are hemming and hawing over how to define levels of interpersonal commitment while willfully overlooking an institution designed to do that very thing.

If they are really concerned with issues of fairness and not merely clinging to an outdated, intolerant mindset, the logical solution is to follow the progressive footsteps of other states and enact state recognition of same-sex marriages.

Times have changed and state representatives need to change with them. It is no longer acceptable to subjugate people based on whom they choose to be with.

Undeniably, society is moving toward accepting same-sex relationships and marriages. It will happen because no matter how many seemingly legitimate excuses legislators present, denying health benefits or recognition to homosexual couples is a policy rooted in intolerance.

As such, it is a policy whose time is over.

Representatives have the right to disagree based on their own set of morals, as does every American. But they should not handicap the rest of the state, and they certainly shouldn’t force another strike.

Sometimes serving the people requires the recognition that someone else can do better. For those unwilling to represent the people’s interests over their own, the only statesmanlike thing to do is step aside.

Fix the system and ratify the contract. Or make room for someone who will.