Thursday, March 08, 2007

The unfairness campaign
Promoting intolerance while hamstringing education – what could be more Frankfort than that? Kentucky Senate Bill 152 is a poetic bill that props up discrimination, ignorance, second-class education, and second-class healthcare, all in an economical 182 words. It aims to prohibit universities and agencies from offering health insurance coverage to anyone other than a legally married spouse or family member. In other words, no homos allowed. But with 70,000 unmarried couples co-habitating in Kentucky (with 50,000 children) – and with universities and agencies already at a hiring disadvantage -- the bill would exacerbate both the healthcare and education crises going on in the commonwealth.

Why the need to legislate discrimination? Because UK and U of L want to extend health benefits to domestic partners, just like Ford, Toyota, UPS, most Fortune 500 companies, all top universities, and scores of other businesses already do. That's because, as most non-Senators know by now, we need our queers and other marriage haters if we're ever going to claw our way out of the 1950s. Turns out, those people are good to have around. Besides being smart and witty and physically fit and handy with a fashion makeover, they also make brilliant teachers, administrators, researchers, and, well, everything. And, while most visionary national leaders are desperately trying to figure out how to insure everybody (no exceptions), it's extra despicable to go out of your way to forbid an employer from offering coverage.

How do those Senators do it? By a vote of 27-8, that's how. Not outraged yet? Here's the homophobic-Republican money shot: Insurance programs like those at U of L that offer coverage to domestic partners don't cost the state a penny. That's because the employee pays the portion that covers the domestic partner, or as they're known in some states, the "old ball and chain." Still, the Republicans in the Senate – you know, those keep-government-out-of-people's-lives types – went out of their way to pass the bill, which now goes to the House.

Enter Representative Tom Burch, D-Louisville. He's chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee and has promised to kill the bill. Burch at first vowed not to even hold a hearing on the bill, but later bowed under parliamentary pressure, knowing Republicans can force a floor vote to score political points against any member who votes in favor of tolerance. If the legislators really want to make this mistake, they'd better hurry. The regular session ends this week.

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