Governor Ventura's decision to look into providing benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian state employees

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Tom Neuville, Republican State Senator; and Ann DeGroot, director of Out Front Minnesota discuss Governor Ventura's decision to look into providing benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian state employees.

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(00:00:11) Goodwill, good morning and welcome to midday. I'm Melanie summer sitting in today for Gary eichten Minnesota could become one of just a handful of states to offer benefits to Partners of gay and lesbian state employees Governor. Jesse Ventura is exploring the idea of offering domestic partner benefits, which could include Healthcare and other insurance. The governor says it's one way of recruiting and retaining high quality employees, even though the details have not been worked out reaction to the idea has been Swift and predictable advocates for Gay and Lesbian rights support it many conservative groups oppose it this morning and midday will talk more about whether domestic partner benefits are a good idea with two guests on opposite sides of the issue. But first, we'll talk with State Commissioner of employee relations. Julian Carter who was responsible for studying the cost and feasibility of domestic partner benefits. Mr. Carter. Good morning. Thanks for being with us. Mr. Carter, are you there? Mr. Carter, are you there? We're having a bit of trouble with mr. Carter. So well, we will come back to him in just a few minutes. I'll also introduce my other guests who are and Degroot the director of out front Minnesota and advocacy Organization for gay and lesbian people in Minnesota and state senator Tom Neville who is a republican from North Field. He's also the assistant minority leader in the Senate and he's an attorney as well. First I'm going to see if mr. Carter. Is there one more time? Mr. Carter. Are you on the line now? No, we just have seem to have lost him. Mr. Carter. I'm here. Oh, I've got I had the wrong button pushed. Thank you. (00:01:47) Sorry. Hello. I'm hello. Yes. Yes. Hi. How are you today? Just fine. Good. (00:01:52) This is a state senator. I mean, this is mr. Carter I Julian Carter. That's correct. Alright, I'm sorry. We had such trouble here. First of all, could you give us a definition of domestic partner bent partner (00:02:01) benefits? Well, basically what we're looking at is offering some portion of our current benefits set that is offered to our employees to individuals who are in committed relationships, but who for one reason or another heater have not married or cannot (00:02:23) marry. All right, and what exactly are the benefits that were talking about health insurance life insurance what other things might be involved with them? (00:02:31) Well, the things that were looking at clearly the health and dental insurance, but also optional life long term care insurance possibly clearly, sick and bereavement leave most of the standard sorts of benefit options. That one would expect from their (00:02:50) employer and why is this proposal being considered at this (00:02:53) time? Well, you know, we're looking at some pretty significant reductions in the State Workforce. So for the next five to ten years due to retirement, you know, we're looking at for example by 2005 eighteen percent of the workforce leaving by 2010 37% I think all Employers in Minnesota and throughout the country are looking at this some of the same issues of you'll have significant numbers of people leaving and how will we attract recruit and retain? The employees that are either left in the workforce over in the marketplace. So that's why we're looking at this to try to keep our benefit set competitive currently. There are 80 employers throughout the state of Minnesota that offer this sort of benefit. It seems to be that this is becoming a standard part of the benefit offerings and we sure want to stay competitive in the (00:03:46) marketplace. Is it strictly an issue of attracting employees and retaining them is that does that the the main reason here are there other reasons (00:03:55) involved? Well, that's the reason that we are pursuing and I mean just comes down to in the marketplace that you know, you look and see what the people are what the businesses are offering and in order to remain competitive, you know, we have to offer somewhat the same sorts of benefits and clearly this seems to be one that's emerging. So it is a recruitment and retention issue for us. (00:04:22) Do you have any idea how many state employees would take? Of this coverage if it were (00:04:25) offered. Well, you know that's hard to put a number two because we sure do not have employees declaring currently their domestic partner status or that they would be interested in this but you know, it's kind of a hard number to know how many people will take advantage of it. We do know however that there will be some obviously who will since we came out with the announcement last week. We've received a lot of positive comments and support for this and so clearly we think that there will be some utilization of this benefit if it's offered (00:05:02) and you know, can I go back to the your first response and have you clarify a little bit more what it is when we talk about domestic Partners, obviously, a lot of people are assuming this primarily involves gay and lesbian couples, but there are other people who could be covered by this as (00:05:16) well. No, absolutely, right and that's one of the things that we're trying to weigh out at this point is do we limit it to say Sex or do we make it available to all employees and domestic partner relationships whether that be same or heterosexual (00:05:34) relationships and when might you have your recommendations or conclusions to present to the (00:05:40) governor, we hope to have those shortly. We're still exploring the fiscal impact of one option over another but we hope to have those very soon to the governor and be able to roll out as much of a comprehensive view of what we'd like to pursue as we can (00:06:00) and I've been reminded as I've been reading up on this issue that you know, the legislature defeated a similar proposal about three years ago. Do you have any sense as to whether or not the there will be a different outcome if it were debated in the legislature this time (00:06:13) around well, obviously the mechanism by which we need to offer this we need to explore that and look at the strategies. I hope that you know will do it. Very good job of educating the legislature in any group about why we feel that we need to offer this benefit. It really is once again an issue of attracting and retaining quality employees were looking at some very significant staff shortages over the next five to ten years and we just need to make sure that the benefits that is competitive. So hopefully we'll do a good job of educating individuals to this issue. (00:06:54) Mr. Carter. Thanks so much for joining us this morning. Thanks. You have a good day Jillian Carter estate Commissioner of employee relations. And the issue that were talking about has come to the fore in Minnesota at the same time that a national study indicates. The number of employers across the country are offering domestic partner benefits about 25% more of them just the past year. So for the rest of the hour, we'll talk about the implications here in Minnesota in the wake of that National report. Our guests are n de Groot the director of out front Minnesota, which is an advocacy Organization for gays and lesbians in the state. Mr. Grew. Thanks for being with us. Thanks good to be here. And our other guest is state. Senator Tom Neville from Northfield. He's a republican from Northfield the assistant minority leader in the Senate and also an attorney Senator Neville. Thanks for being with us. Good morning. Let's start with you Senator Neville. What is your reaction? First of all to the governor's decision to to look at this issue and some of the things that you've heard. Mr. Carter talking about. (00:07:53) Well, my first reaction is that it will have a real uphill road to passage in the legislature as you mentioned about three years ago. Thank Senator Dick Cohen had a bill and fact, I think I was the one that offered an amendment on the senate floor to modify it to limit it to basically, you know, traditional family members as opposed to domestic partners and that Amendment passed. I don't think that the Senate has become More liberal in this on this issue and I certainly don't think the house has so depending on on the elections. I suppose it could change but I don't think we supported it in 1997. I don't think that our society has changed that much that we want to open this type of benefit up to domestic Partners. There's there's a social policy argument and there's a fiscal policy argument. I think they're both legitimate, but I do think it faces an uphill (00:08:53) battle. And why are you personally concerned about about doing this? Why did you for example proposed the amendment that you just described (00:09:01) three as I said it? I think there are two arguments. The first one is the social policy argument. I think that the state has a very legitimate reason and for practically our entire history to the extent we've provided these benefits we've limited that those benefits to family members traditionally in married families, and I think the state has an interest in in Traditional married married families Independence Inn in that context as opposed to other types of relationships to the extent. We provide those benefits to other quote committed relationships. I think we are diluting the benefit that we give to others. I think we're sending a message that that's an acceptable lifestyle that I don't think socially I agree with and many others but then the second argument is the fiscal policy issue and that is I don't see how we could limit it, you know, just to you know, what people traditionally understand as domestic Partners to the gay lesbian Partnerships. I think it could open The Floodgate basically to providing benefits to every single person who lives in a household with with a state employee. Why wouldn't it apply for example to a sick? Bling or to a sick elderly parent or a sick fraternity brother who decides to move in with you and receive care. So I just think from a fiscal standpoint again. We've got a serious problem right now providing benefits to the people. We do 700 bucks a month. I understand for our health care and they're going up 20% a year to provide that to another large class of people would cost the state a lot of money and probably dilute the benefits. We could give to people get it. Now. (00:10:56) I'm going to just give our phone numbers real quickly for our listeners and then we'll hear from and a group from out front Minnesota. If you have a comment or a question about this particular issue, whether or not the state of Minnesota should provide domestic partner benefits to State Employees. Give us a call at six five one two, two seven six thousand if you're in the Twin Cities 6512276 thousand anywhere else you listening. It's one eight hundred two, four two two eight two eight one eight hundred 2422. Eight to eight and a group from out front Minnesota. What is your first of all your reaction generally to the to the fact that this issue is on the table here that Governor Ventura has placed it on the table. I think it's great. And I think he's doing it in the right way. He's asking for some research. He's talking to his Department of employee relations and asking them to get back to him with information so that they can make some good decisions about how this ought to happen. And so I'm delighted with his announcement last week. I think it was the right thing to do given the business climate in Minnesota. And I think that they are going to find some pretty interesting information as they research this and why is it the right thing to do from your perspective? Well, you know, our perspective is that this is really good for business. There are 88 corporations in Minnesota currently that we are aware of who offer domestic partner benefits and of the 15 largest corporations in Minnesota as ranked by the st. Paul Pioneer Press nine of those corporations offer domestic partner benefits. So when the commissioner said that this infect is becoming standard business practice, that is true and the reason Standard business practices that people want to be able to attract and retain the best employees they can to do the job for their corporation that they can get and the truth is in Minnesota. We need to be sure that the people that we have working for us as citizens of Minnesota are the best employees and that we can attract the best and the brightest people and this is one of the measures that it takes to make that happen and over time. I think this will become more and more important. How important is this an as an issue for actually attracting and retaining employees my understanding from talking to the businesses who do do this that it is quite important to attract people. It's a pretty competitive climate out there if you're looking for a job, it's not so bad. But if you're an employer it's not the easiest thing in the world right now to find people and so everything helps and everything counts. It's also important in terms of people's willingness to stay in there the business that they're in and to continue working there and to feel comfortable and loyal to their corporation of business, and that doesn't matter. Their sexual orientation doesn't matter. What matters is what is the attitude once the atmosphere then that's created in that workplace some of those companies that you're talking about that already do this offer domestic partner benefits include General Mills Blue Cross and Blue Shield Wells Fargo North West and in the interest of full disclosure. We should also say that Minnesota Public Radio does as well. Yeah. In fact you were the first ones to do so in the state I think and so I'm always proud to be able to say that when I go around the country and Minnesota Public Radio, I think has had an eight or nine year history of doing this. Maybe I'm exaggerating by a year or so. So yes, in fact you do do that. I do want to clarify one thing about the bill that was proposed three years ago. The before we go on that was a bill actually that was proposed to remove the restriction for municipalities for providing domestic partner benefits. So it's a little bit different Bill. What we're talking about right now is potential proposal by the governor's office to provide provide. Domestic partner benefits for state employees. The second thing that out front Minnesota is talking about is trying to find a way to remove that restriction. So that municipalities can make their own decisions about what they want offer in terms of their benefits packages Senator Neville what's wrong with allowing municipalities to make their own decisions about (00:14:43) this. Well, I think there's no other argument than what I made before, which is that I think is a matter of public policy. There's both the fiscal and the social implications in a democracy, you know, the majority rules and I think that we look at the social policy aspect not only in a present context but in a traditional one, I think it's important for the state to have a policy that favors traditional marriage traditional relationships. There is a benefit in a general argument to be made that that's in the best interest of the state now, I Stand the argument being made about the workforce and it's probably true today that there are that there's great competition for employees. It cuts across all sectors of employment. But that that exists today. I think that could change next year. It could change three or four years from now. I don't think we have to I don't think we have a crisis that we have to change our our social policy and put in place fiscal policy that could cost us dearly in future years. So I'm not persuaded by the argument that we have to do this just to get quality employees in the State (00:16:04) Workforce. Let's talk about fiscal policy. If we can for just a matter the cost of this in corporations that offer this benefit they found that on average the pool of workers who could take advantage of domestic partner benefits and this includes same-sex and opposite-sex couples is about 7% of the current Workforce that they have. Place when they actually offer the benefit if you take into account all couples who could benefit by this about one percent or even less than 1% of the people actually take advantage of this benefit and that's been consistent for a number of years now across all sectors and all places that offer this kind of benefit. So we're talking about a pretty miniscule amount of money when you're looking at the large picture here, but we are talking about an incredible return in terms of people's feelings about their jobs their willingness to do their work and their feelings as an employee's so the payback you get is way more than the money that you're spending. Obviously there are no details to this plan and how it might work in Minnesota if it were to pass but there are many other states and obviously all these various employers who have instituted this. Is there a problem with fraud with people actually lying as Senator Neville was concerned about before of trying to use this system to to get benefits where they would Be entitled to them, you know, I've heard of absolutely no cases of fraud. That doesn't mean that some don't exist. But what I can tell you is that the protection the enforcement for that. Yeah. That's I think a good question in most businesses that offer this you need to sign an affidavit as the person receiving the benefits and the employee saying that you in fact are in a relationship that is long term and that you have some joint relationship with each other that in fact you are in a couple and that you would qualify under the terms of the company's coverage. So you do have to sign an affidavit most companies also require you in addition to bring you know, something in which you would be shown as the beneficiary and life insurance or joint policy for car insurance or in some cases. They ask you to bring in your certificate of domestic partner which Minneapolis offers they have a registration program. So you need to bring some kind of legitimate documentation that you in fact are domestic partners and you have to sign an affidavit. If you sign that affidavit fastly you could be accused of Fraud and I would encourage any corporations finding that to you know, do whatever they do either prosecute through the legal system or through their own system that situation Senator Neville wouldn't do you have a reaction to that. I mean certainly would seem that a plan like this could be structured to address the concerns that you have (00:18:46) about fraud. Well, first of all, I don't think I argued fried yet. Now. I may be I'm gonna be implied that from some of my comments. Yes. I got it. But I think that maybe one of the reasons I mean, I don't know if and accrued is right about the seven percent 1 percent or not. But let's let's say that that those are the numbers I suspect that one of the reasons is because in same-sex relationships that both of the individuals already have their own coverage. And so there might only be a small number that you know needed for the partner, but I think that as I did argue earlier this would just be I think the first Domino to fall and I really do think it would be hard for the state to say we're going to provide benefits for two men or two women who live together who sign an affidavit And then be able to say that someone else doesn't have it just as committed a relationship. I think that was the phrase that the commissioner use the a committed relationship. How can you say you don't have at least the same commitment to an elderly parent to a brother or sister to an adult child to you know, many other types of of people who maybe just don't have a sexual relationship. So I think that this would would open up a Floodgate I think it would be very difficult if the state started doing it to hold that line and I you know, and and I I guess we can put numbers and we can do studies on the fiscal side of it. But I think when you get to the social policy argument against this, you know, that really can't be studied as well. I think that's something that people believe you can argue on both sides of that I suppose in good faith, but I think the majority of people in Minnesota wouldn't Port this is a matter of social policy. (00:20:43) Let's have Robert from Minneapolis during the conversation. Good morning Robert. Hello. Hi. (00:20:48) Well you talk about fraud but you don't have a domestic partnership registration. It's just like a comparable to a marriage license and you don't have much problems with people fraud early marrying each other in order to get benefits. So there shouldn't be a problem. But I want to take this a little further and point out that when the State Office of class of been a benefits such as the benefits of marriage the one class of people and doesn't offer them to another it's comfortable it be comfortable to State saying well, we'll offer these benefits to white people but we will offer them to African Americans and even the state of Vermont which is gone further than any other states that still not equal benefits because the Verma Vermont's domestic partnership whether they call it it's not marriage and so the federal tax Fitz and so forth a marriage are still not available to the Vermont couples and other than the discriminatory effect of this now, I'd also like to point out that they say if people say this cheapens marriage, but I can't see all the heterosexual couple couples in this country is saying oh honey. I'm marriage has been desecrated cheap and we're going to have to get a divorce and and lastly I would point out. It's not understanding that when you put your family on your medical benefits any other benefits for for a company that you had to pay a higher premium that premium then if you pay just for individual so I can't see what the financial part problem is a no one more quick Point very quickly. They religions various religions are free to recognize the marriage and not that look we couldn't force them to do that because it contact contradictory freedom of religion for provisions of the Constitution, but the Can recognize the marriage and it should it's just that giving a discriminatory benefits to one class of people and not another (00:22:49) thank you very much for the call Robert Senator Neville. What's your response to Robert's points. I mean to me. (00:22:53) Well, he raised me raised way too many points. I think for me to respond in one shot but II do reject the analogy between for example, I think he was the the race issue in terms. We have a human rights law. I was somewhat active when that was passed back in 1993. And and I guess (00:23:18) does that human rights law cover People based on their sexual (00:23:23) orientation? It does since 1993. (00:23:26) Even how does that well, well, they're really not know you feel the same (00:23:30) that applies to things like employment and housing public accommodations and what have you but one of the things that I think is interesting and I guess To me having observed it for seven years is of concern when we pass that human rights law back in 1993 to give you an example. There were a surance is back. Then that this this law would never be used as a means as a stepping stone to same-sex marriage. It would never be used as a stepping stone to same-sex adoption or we would never teach that same-sex relationships are equal to married relationships in our school. Well that just clearly hasn't been the case. The the law has been used. I think incrementally to move in that direction. There are many of us who don't agree to a movement in that direction and and I think that giving same-sex benefits setting that up as an acceptable thing that taxpayers pay for is yet another incremental move toward some of the things that we have concern about people who are more conservative. I guess I would be At classification I work very closely with many gays and lesbians have been to talk to Alan spear. I think I worked very well with him the position that we tend to take is that one of Tolerance. I believe that gay and lesbians have civil rights and are entitled to protection under the law like others but I don't think that we have to create a special classification for them with respect to activity-based types of things as opposed to status (00:25:14) and de Groot. Why should taxpayers in Minnesota who don't support gay and lesbian rights be asked to provide these benefits through their tax dollars. Well, I think because they will have a better environment for state employees to do the jobs that they do to serve them and there are numbers of taxes that we assess in this state that get used for all kinds of things that probably any one of us could say I don't agree with that but I agree with that and I don't agree with this but Screw that we don't do taxes. That way. We really talk about From perspective of public policy. What's the best policy? What's the best practice for our state government? What is the best thing for us to be doing and what we're talking about now here is that the governor is saying we need to create a good work environment. We need to have the best state employees for the citizens of Minnesota that we possibly can and we think that these benefits are well, he hasn't said this yet, but they're looking at are these benefits necessary to make that happen and I think that that's what's important here, but it certainly would be a statement on the part of the state of Minnesota to say. Yes, we support gay and lesbian rights to an extent that we have not in the past and although there are some states that have taken that step. There's only about six of them. That would be a big step it would be a big step but I think what is being said is not in the context of supporting gay and lesbian rights. What we're saying here is let's support a good work environment in Minnesota for our employees and we're also talking about benefits for unmarried heterosexual. Sexuals which is not something I knew till I sat down and listened to the commissioner this morning, but certainly that is also being looked at. So we're really looking at expanding benefits to include all people regardless of their marital status. We are talking this morning with and to group the director of out front Minnesota and advocacy Organization for gay and lesbian people in Minnesota and state senator Tom Neville, he's a republican from Northfield and the assistant minority leader in the state senate and he's also an attorney we're talking this morning about Governor. Jesse Ventura has proposal which you made public last week that his administration is looking at the idea of whether or not to offer domestic partner benefits to State Employees things like health insurance life insurance sick leave that sort of thing a bereavement leave to a partner's of state employees who are not married heterosexual and homosexual Partners. We're wondering what you have to say about this use issue. Do you think it's a good idea for the state to take this step? Is it an important thing to attract and retain employees for the state or is it to sending the wrong? Message regarding the state support for Gay and Lesbian rights. We're interested in knowing what you have to say here on midday. 6512276 thousand is the telephone number in the Twin Cities 6512276 thousand anywhere else, you're listening. It's one eight hundred two, four two two eight two eight one eight hundred 2422828. You're listening to midday here on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Melanie summer sitting in today for Gary eichten programming on NPR is supported by the Minnesota Medical Foundation advancing world-class medical and public health research and education at the University of Minnesota through philanthropy. Ever deal with this workplace (00:28:22) dilemma. What's an ethical person to do when asked to work behind a colleagues back on a project that will undermine that college? I'm David brancaccio choosing between your company and your co-workers plus (00:28:31) the rest of the day's business news later on Marketplace from PRI. And you can listen to Market Place this evening at 6:30 here on Minnesota Public Radio. We'll return to our conversation here on midday in just a few moments after we check in with the latest news from Greta Cunningham. Thanks Melanie. Good morning Clinton administration officials. Say it appears you a slav leader Slobodan milosevic has lost yesterday's election to the opposition party, but it may not be easy to get him to leave. Most of it has a lies and says he's ahead in the tally even though they acknowledged he could be forced into a runoff officials still haven't released the official Tally from yesterday's election in Yugoslavia. American Michael Johnson and Australian Cathy Freeman have both won Olympic gold medals in their 400 meter race has the wind means Johnson is the first man to win the race in back-to-back Olympics Johnson will run in a relay race Saturday. The news is not so good for American gymnast both the men's and women's teams have been shut out of metal hopes Blaine Wilson finished six in the vault finals. And Elise. Ray was eighth on the balance beam. It's the first time since 1972 that the US has not. Gymnastics metal at Olympics to which it's an athlete's in Regional news. Animal rights activists are causing some problems today during General Mills annual shareholders meeting. The activists are protesting General Mills sponsorship of circus has several protesters from people for the ethical treatment of animals gathered outside the meeting which is being held at the Children's Theater Company in Minneapolis few shareholders walk by the demonstration, which began after most of them were already inside the building the trial of the man who is accused of killing Minnesota Timberwolves player Malik Sealy while driving drunk has been delayed. So sanguine fencing was originally scheduled to go to trial today. He is charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide police say he was driving the wrong way down Highway 100 when he smashed head-on into Seeley's car May 20th in St. Louis Park. He was allegedly driving with a blood alcohol level of nearly twice the legal limit at the time of the accident the forecast for the state of Minnesota calls for mostly sunny skies Statewide today with high temperatures in the 50s tonight partly cloudy Statewide with low. Ranging from 30 to 40 degrees at this hour Duluth reports clear skies and 55 degrees skies are clear of Rochester and 54 and in the Twin Cities partly cloudy skies a temperature of 54 degrees. That's a look at the latest news. Thank you Greta. This is midday here on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Melanie summer sitting in today for Gary. Eichten. We invite you to stay tuned to coming up after the news at noon. We will hear on alive National Press Club address by Ivan Seidenberg. He's the president and CEO of Verizon Wireless one of those new big Telecom a company. So we'll hear what he has to say about the digital divide and the global economy coming up after the news at noon right now here on midday were talking for the rest of this hour with us state. Senator Tom Neville a republican from North Field and and two groups director of out front Minnesota in advocacy Organization for gays and lesbians about Governor Ventura zdechlik. Or two to eight to eight our next caller on the line is Mike from Minneapolis. Good morning, Mike. Good morning. Hi. (00:31:59) Hi. I just like to comment about Senator Neville's misunderstanding of the issue. I think he hasn't for one answered any of the questions. He brought up fiscal and social concerns fiscally and Degroot responded to that. I think without any question, there's not any concerns that it will be a burden on the taxpayers of the state socially. I'm not quite sure what Senator Neville is afraid of it seems like it is the right thing to do because there are a number of these people out there by not including them. Then we're excluding just like we excluded other groups in the in the past and now we're trying to make amends with these groups now for instance American Indians, African-Americans Etc. This is just another form of discrimination by excluding these people and I don't I'm not sure why that is it seems like the Republicans across the country. It is a national agenda and it's rooted in religious bias. And my understanding of the Constitution is that religion is not supposed to enter into (00:33:17) this. Thanks very much for the call. Mike. Senator never would like to respond. (00:33:22) Well, first of all, I think I did answer the question. It's it's always hard. I supposed to answer to the satisfaction of somebody who disagrees with you when you're arguing about your belief in your opinion and you know, the social policy argument is clearly one. That's it's a belief in it's an opinion that I have that I think is shared by the majority of people in Minnesota. I don't I don't believe and and the other thing that I guess to some extent bothers me is that How quickly people who oppose special rights for gays and lesbians quickly get accused of being bigoted or particularly religious bigot. I just don't think that's a fair argument. (00:34:06) Can you draw a distinction between this issue or as we talked before about to the state human rights law why people who are gay or lesbian should be given different treatment than African-Americans or Hispanics or American (00:34:22) Indians. Well, it's it's the basic argument that occurred back in 1993. And that is that and I understand. On the other side of the argument people like Alan spear who authored that law argued that sexual orientation was a status. There are those of us who believe that it is conduct not a status like being black is and and I think they're distinguishable. So people like myself who don't really think that sexual orientation should have been put in the human rights lat nevertheless still think the gays and lesbians are entitled to equal treatment under the law in those areas. And we we accept a policy or a philosophy of Tolerance, but I think that what's happening is that the gay lesbian agenda is more. I mean, they're taking the initiative to to push more and more special rights using that law as the (00:35:19) springboard into group. You know, this is that same old argument we could have on the radio for the rest of the day and probably and yeah. Oh, yeah, and we've had it before and you've heard it with lots of people. I know when I've had it with lots of people we come down a very different sides. But the reality of the situation is that Minnesota is an employer and that an employee's a vast number of people and that it wants to make the workplace that it has the best workplace it possibly can for all of its employees and some of its employees are in same-sex relationships and some of its employees are in domestic partner relationships that are opposite gender, but they choose not to marry and the state is looking at how to best work with and make sure that those employees are taken care of and that the workplace climate is good. They want the best competitive advantage that they can have and that's what they're looking at here. And I think that that's important. (00:36:07) I must admit, you know, this isn't an area that I've researched a whole lot up to now but maybe an can answer this question it in the private sector for those companies that do offer domestic partner benefits. Do they do they also offer those benefits to opposite sex partners who sign the same affidavit or is it just to the generally to the same sex (00:36:26) partners? You know, that's a good question. We get asked that a lot. It's about Often half in Minnesota about 50% offer to only same-sex couples and about 50% I'm and the rest offer also to (00:36:38) well because the point that I was going to make is that if this is truly a work force retention issue or recruitment issue, then we can't stop just at same-sex Partnerships at least the Commissioners being consistent. I think when he says that committed relationship would have to include opposite-sex Partnerships unmarried people living together of the opposite sex because that would be I would assume a vastly larger pool of potential employees out. There. It is a much larger. And so that's why if we're going to argue the fiscal policy. We cannot stop just at the same sex partners. We have to talk about all sex partners and we and we're going to get Way Beyond just gays and lesbians. It's going to be many many other people and that's where the fiscal impact would come in (00:37:29) our next call. Rob from Minneapolis. Hello, (00:37:31) Rob. Hi, good morning. Once again, the Senators going with a slippery slope argument where that hasn't happened in any civil rights change yet. Although conservatives always argue it but the point I wanted to make was that we're already subsidizing relationships. We don't agree with between city state federal government employees the military my tax dollars go to subsidize relationships probably a few million. We're all paying for and statistically those have to include relationships where men are beating their wives parents are abusing their children women are treated unequally people are staying in unhappy marriages because they think it's better for the kids. I don't agree with those kind of relationships, but I'm already paying for them because as Anne mentioned we don't get to pick and choose where our tax dollars go. I get tired of these kinds of arguments and especially tired of the social argument because as the previous caller mentioned the senator doesn't have the right to impose his religious beliefs on me through legislation or policy. It's a question of simple equality. I'm a citizen. I'm a voter I'm a taxpayer and I demand equal treatment. Changing the language in this and changing the policy is not going to alter the American Family newsflash Senator the American Family changed a long time ago. It changed from that 1950s sitcom model decades ago and it's time for the language in the law to catch up to reality and time to treat every citizen equally. (00:38:49) All right Rob. Thanks very much for the call. Senator Neville. A lot of these calls are directed your way. (00:38:55) I'm not prepared to give up on on a husband-wife family. I think it's still the best vehicle we have of raising children of imposing the Traditional Values with with our children of reducing crime of improving School attendance. I think that clearly the American family has been under siege and under attack and it's been weakened. That's a cultural thing that's been happening for a long long time, but I'm not prepared to give up on on our families the traditional family. We have in this country (00:39:31) and let me just say clearly that no one is suggesting that we do no one is suggesting that we take benefits away from any group of people for any other group of people. What we're suggesting here is that all employees have access to equal benefits and that's really the only issue Senator Neville. Can you explain a little further why you feel as though traditional family Arrangement would be threatened by supporting this proposal? (00:39:59) Well, I think whenever the state adopts a policy that policy implicitly says that that the activity that we're going to subsidize or fund is acceptable that it is a that it's on par with all the other relationships. I think anything you subsidize you get more of and so to that extent. I just don't I don't support as a matter of belief and opinion the fact that that the majority We have people in our state want to start putting other relationships on an even on an even level with the family relationships that we currently provide benefits for. The argument is not terribly complex and and to some extent I agree there I can argue the case from my perspective and there isn't much I'm going to say to persuade and accrued or lots of the caller's. It's a belief in its opinion. I don't believe that it rises to the level of discrimination because the state has a an interest in preserving the types of relationships that we think are healthy for our society. (00:41:12) Next on the line is Wade from Plymouth. Good morning Wade. (00:41:15) Hi. Thank you for taking my call. Sure. I'm really concerned that what's primarily a fiscal issue here is being portrayed as a civil rights issue, and I think the senator is kind of falling into that trap. good good level-headed thinking people can be opposed to this issue not because they're opposed to homosexuality or to homosexual Behavior, but simply because that's such a minuscule part of the issue here. Yeah, the fiscal fiscal implications of the issuer huge to say that this would not create a huge new fiscal burden on the taxpayers of Minnesota. I think is (00:41:53) false. I think we will be interested to find out what the state finds in its research because I'm certain that's one thing they're going to be looking into but what we do know from all the data we have over the last 10 years in which domestic partner benefits have been provided by employers is that of the pool of employees who are able to get domestic get benefits at all. Seven percent are eligible for domestic partner benefits and of that seven percent one percent actually take advantage of those benefits. So and in fact when I've said that number in front of people who are in corporations who offer those benefits, they always say, oh no one percents too high. So it's 1% or less. So we're talking about a very very small number of people in a very very small amount of money. Well it certainly He could have could be in those corporations, you know experienced a very small number but it's certainly possible that the state would find a higher percentage interested. I mean if you talk about benefits provided by the state versus private employers many times the state benefits are more generous and might be more attractive to people. So I guess it's difficult to really predict at this point. It's difficult to predict and that's why we really have to wait for the research coming out. I can tell you what has been true overtime and and Senator Neville's point about the slippery slope about us starting with a relatively small group of people, but there certainly is a possibility over time that more and more different sorts of groups of employees would want this kind of coverage that seemed is that a valid concern? Well, I think that people will probably bring things up and and and they will do that as they do what we're talking about right now is benefits to people in committed relationships to domestic partner benefits. That's what we are working. On that's what we're here in the governor talked about and I think that's that's really the issue at hand right now. So I think the slippery slope argument is a whole different thing that if some people come and they want benefits to cover their grandparent or you know, an aunt or fraternity brother. They're going to have to come and make that argument and at a separate time that is not what's going on here. Next on the line is Sam from Minneapolis. Hello Sam. (00:44:05) Hi. I'm a state employee and I am in a domestic partnership of eight years and I want to point out that domestic partnership benefits are a huge issue in my employment and the employment of other people. I know at the state. We do have retention problems. We have problems finding people and I know lots of people for whom this is a daily issue. Additionally, there are lots of issues that are not may be strictly fiscal where I'm not protected. My partner and I are trying to have a child if she gets pregnant. I can't take a day off of work. Mark for the birth of our child under the current status now that same work day could be taken by someone who is married. You're not paying for that day. So I just want to know Senator do you think that's just do you think that's equality? Thank you Senator gravel. Yes, I think it's fair for the state to draw a distinction and say that as a matter of policy. It is more in the state's interest to provide benefits for husband and wife family relationships and their children than it is for others. I think that is still the preferable and the best form of a relationship in the state has an interest in trying to support and encourage those types of relationships (00:45:26) and I would say that the state has a responsibility to respect and honor all of the relationships in the state that we have here and to do their best by everybody because that strengthens the whole state regardless of people's sexual. Tation marital status or whatever we're talking about here. And so I do think this is an important piece of that and something that will get people thinking at the very least but it certainly is important to respect and honor all of the people who work for the state of Minnesota. So the next step in this process is that the employment relations commissioner. Mr. Carter is going to come up with the series of recommendations or his findings on on this issue and presumably then the governor would want a bill introduced in the upcoming legislative session that might make this happen. If if it's seems physically feasible to him Senator Neville in the closing moments we have how do you feel that debate might go in the legislature this (00:46:22) time. I think it will probably be similar to what happened in 1993 some people including myself predicted that the passage of the 1993 law would lead to more debate on topics that were a little bit more controversial and And I suspect that now that we have seven years of hindsight and we'll see that some of the assurances that were made back in 93 have not been kept. I think the law has been used for purposes other than them was represented. I think the same may be said of this issue and I think the debate will be very very (00:47:02) similar and a group you got about a minute left. Let me remind people that since 1993 not only have we had a state law in place but there have been numerous other changes in our society. There are more gay people on TV and the newspapers more people are out. There are more issues out there. So there are a number of things that have happened over the last seven years including 88 employers offering domestic partner benefits that have to do with what we're talking about today is not simply the law that happened. There are a number of other things and we can't forget that. Do you believe though that you can convince enough legislators to go along with us? This is going to be a tough battle. That is where I do agree with Senator Neville. This is going to be an uphill battle is going to be tough, but it is extremely important that the governor's coming out saying we need to look at this and that makes a huge difference for us. Thanks to both of you for joining me this morning and de Groot is the director of out front Minnesota and advocacy Organization for gay and lesbian people in Minnesota. And we also spoke with state senator Tom Neville a republican from Northfield. He's the assistant minority leader in the state senate. You're listening to mid-day here on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Melanie summer sitting in today for Gary eichten and coming up in just a moment. It's the writers Almanac Later today, the story of a Latin rock song with roots in Pre Castro (00:48:18) Cuba. It's a child and call it a that's a pure rhythm of was very popular in them days and still is and people dance to that type of music from the NPR 100 or J. Come over the man who wrote it and the band that made it famous. That's (00:48:33) today by an all things considered from NPR news.


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