Domestic partner benefits bill based

It’s déjà vu for the General Assembly and Kentucky domestic partners.

For the second year in a row, a bill that would ban public universities and other state institutions from offering health insurance plans to domestic partners, such as same-sex couples, passed the Kentucky Senate last week and is on its way to the House Health and Welfare Committee, the Kernel reported.

It is our hope history will continue to repeat itself, and the bill will die in the House committee as it did last year, for many practical and ideological reasons.

First, as Gov. Steve Beshear said during his budget proposal, as reported in a Jan. 30 Kernel article, Medicaid should receive the largest amount of new funding. If health care supplied by Medicaid is so important, why would the state government pass a bill restricting others’ access to health insurance?

Some state senators and representatives have said that supplying health insurance to domestic partners creates a system that is too easy to corrupt. These politicians argue fraud would be higher when health insurance packages are offered to domestic partners since there is no marriage contract to validate the relationship.

But this view is shortsighted. Fraud is a risk in any insurance package. Validating the legitimacy of insurance applicants is a standard precaution and can be applied to domestic partners as well. Also, the fact that some perceive a higher risk of fraud should not outweigh an individual’s right to state-funded healthcare.

Some in Frankfort, like Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, have argued that the cost of supplying such benefits is too great, especially during the current state budget crisis.

Lee makes an unsound argument. Although the state allots UK and all other public universities funding, the money paying for these benefits comes from the colleges’ budgets. UK, which has been supplying domestic partner benefits since July 2007, has as much interest as the entire state in holding on to as much money as it can during such a rocky budget biennium.

UK not only feels comfortable giving out such benefits but advocates them to attract the best faculty nationwide. Many universities around the country were supplying these benefits long before the University of Louisville became the first public university in Kentucky to do so in January 2007. What’s more, micromanaging university policies should not be a priority of state legislators.

Frankly, it is our opinion, and fear, that opposition to these benefits is inherently rooted in bigotry.

It seems it would be much more difficult to restrict state-funded healthcare for any other population of people. But for Kentucky homosexuals, a population for which marriage is illegal after a 2004 state amendment vote, it is easier for many to focus on the consequences of cost and risk of fraud. It becomes easier to restrict persons’ rights rather than expand them.

The value of these benefits to state colleges and universities is clear, and the opposition to them is not.

When the money to pay for such benefits is already at the universities’ disposal and the practical reasons for them is in attracting qualified faculty of all backgrounds to benefit higher education, the proponents of this legislation seem to stand against lifestyles they don’t agree with far more than they stand for the betterment of the state.