Legislative Coordinating Committee set to vote on same-sex benefits

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

In an unusual twist, many members of the state House of Representatives might not be able to take advantage of the same-sex domestic partner health benefits they are deciding on for other state employees.

The state human resource department informed House employees in a Tuesday memorandum they would not be eligible for the benefits but said Senate members and staff would still be able to enroll a domestic partner for health, dental and life insurance benefits.

Last spring, the House passed an amendment to prohibit extending benefits to partners of state employees, said Greg Hubinger, director of the Legislative Coordinating Committee.

“Because of that strong vote, leadership believes it would be inconsistent to offer that benefit to its members,” Hubinger said.

Rep. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he thought the memo was “outrageous.”

“This is a failure to step forward and remain consistent with other branches of government,” Dibble said. “This is a failure to go in the way the rest of the world is going.”

The final decision will be made by the LCC next week. The committee is made up of six senators and six House representatives.

Hubinger said he thought some House members would want to extend coverage but said he had heard concerns from majority leadership about the morality of the same-sex benefits.

“Some believed extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners would diminish the esteem in which we hold marriage,” he said.

Rep. Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, said he didn’t think it would be consistent for House members to accept benefits for same-sex domestic partners after passing the amendment.

Dibble said he is trying to encourage the LCC to extend the benefits to House members.

“The process is a bit flawed,” Dibble said. “This is highly unfair. Why single out one tiny group of government?”

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]