Milwaukee County Board Voted for Gay Benefits

Late last month, the Milwaukee County Board Committee voted 4-2 to extend health care benefits to the same sex partners of County employees.  The committee-vote prompted Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker to release a press statement saying he will veto any change to his budget that seeks to add new benefits for public workers.  County Board Supervisors ignored Walker's threat and voted to add new benefits for same-sex partnerships by a 13 to 6 majority.   

As promised, Walker vetoed their alteration to his budget.  However, the 13-6 vote had demonstrated that the County Board had enough votes to override Walker's veto.  But to everyone's surprise, they voted 19-0 to discontinue the effort saying that they didn't want the battle for domestic partners to get tangled up with the county budget. 

Although the issue is off the table for now, the 13-6 vote raises some interesting questions about domestic partnerships.  The County Board has never voted to extend health care benefits to same-sex groups under Walker's watch.  This means they have chosen a time when the county is heavily burdened with unprecedented debt to begin a high-profile civil rights battle.  The timing makes no sense unless, of course, the County Board is trying to use domestic partnerships as a wedge against Walker's candidacy for governor.

Also, the 13-6 vote demonstrates that the Milwaukee County Board had ignored their constituents.  Just three years ago, Wisconsin voters passed an amendment to the state Constitution invalidating same-sex marriages.  The only county that opposed the amendment was Dane, which means that Milwaukee County supported it.  Oblivious to this fact, the Milwaukee County Board voted to provide health care benefits to same-sex partners.

More to the point, some county supervisors in districts heavy with Hispanic residents have also voted for the benefits of same-sex partnerships.  If there is anything that California's for "Proposition 8" has taught us, it's that Hispanics, by and large, are a socially conservative demographic.  Proposition 8, an amendment to California's Constitution, was passed precisely because blacks and Hispanics continue to oppose same-sex marriage.  Even Latinos, who were registered as democrats and voted for Obama last November, rejected same-sex marriage in California. 

And yet in Milwaukee County, Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Peggy West, whose districts are primarily Latino, voted to extend benefits to same-sex partnerships.  This is a good example of public figures transposing their values on their constituents rather than representing them.   

Philosophically, let's put this into proper perspective.  If same-sex partnerships are not legally recognized by the government as married couples, then what criteria is the County Board using to grant them benefits?     

If one argues that marital benefits should be given to them because they love each other, then shouldn't we extend benefits to anyone on the basis of their declared love?  And if so, then how would government regulate that? 

If one argues that marital benefits should be given them because of their sexual intimacy, then shouldn't we extend benefits to anyone that's sexually involved?  Again, how would government regulate that? 

There are other complications.  If the benefits are not based upon a legal marriage contract, then why limit the benefits to just one partner?  Perhaps a county employee has two or three partners living with him.  In the interest of fairness, shouldn't we extend benefits to all of them?  And if so, how would government regulate that?     

As one can see, if the standard of applying benefits to same-sex couples is not based upon a marriage contract, then it becomes a slippery problem for the government to regulate.  Perhaps the County Supervisors aren't hearing their constituents that clearly.  To reach the county supervisor of your district, call 414-278-4222.


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