Bruce Kesler of Democracy Project e-mailed me a link to this article about a Washington State woman who is challenging her former employer’s policy of providing “domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples but not unmarried straight partners.” In her complaint filed with the state Human Rights Commission, Miss Sandi Scott-Moore claims Honeywell, her erstwhile employer, is violating the state’s new gay-rights law.
Unfortunately, I think Miss Scott-Moore has a strong case under the new law. As Joe Marra, a Seattle employment attorney told the Seattle Times: “The law says you can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.” And it appears that Honeywell is discriminating against unmarried heterosexuals by not offering them the same benefits it offers to unmarried gays.
While it may appear discriminatory, Honeywell, just like a number of corporations offers domestic partnership benefits to unmarried same-sex couples (and not unmarried straight ones) because that no state (save Massachusetts) recognizes gay marriages.
If Miss Scott-Moore — or any other employee of such a company — was shacking up with her (or his) different-sex beloved and wanted benefits, all she would need do is go on down to the county courthouse (or wherever they get marriage licenses in the Evergreen State) and get married. Since an individual living with his (or her) same-sex beloved couldn’t do that, companies provide a means for them to get the benefits whcih they have long been offering married employees.
While Honeywell does not offer benefits to unmarried different-sex couples, “a recent Hewitt Associates study” found that among companies offering domestic partnership benefits, “58 percent extended them to both gay and straight employees.” I personally think those companies policies discourage marriage*, but respect the right of each enterprise to set its own employment policies.
Similarly, Honeywell should be free to offer domestic partnership benefits only to those who could not have their unions sanctioned by the state. One reason I oppose non-discrimination laws is that they deprive corporations of the freedom to set their own employment policies.
Honeywell has a sound policy which takes account of existing social/political realities. It provides a means for employees who cannot get marriage licenses to get the benefits the companies offers to married employees. It would be a shame it Washington State’s gay-rights’ legislation would end this sensible private-sector solution.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
*I believe company policies which offer benefits to both same-sex and different-sex couples are anti-marriage because they put couples shacking up together on the same level as married couples, as employees don’t need to get married to have the benefits of marriage. Since states do not recognize same-sex unions, companies, which extend benefits to such unions (and not different-sex unmarried couples) correct for a flaw in government policy. I understand that some such policies have sunset provisions to take effect when the state recognizes same-sex unions.