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Published: Thursday, 5/3/2012

Simple fairness


The question is simple: Should people who live together in a long-term, committed relationship have the same access to health-care and other benefits as people who are legally married? The answer should be simple as well.

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Toledo Mayor Mike Bell says city employees should be able to sign up their domestic partners for the same benefits that are available to the spouses and children of their coworkers. That's fair. It's the right thing to do. It tells people that Toledo is a compassionate, open city that is committed to equality.

But some Toledoans want to discriminate against heterosexual couples who, for whatever reason, have not legalized or sanctified their relationship. They consider providing medical and dental insurance to the children of same-sex couples morally reprehensible.

They think government should promote traditional marriage and discourage other relationships. That's the position of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo. Other people object as well, but are less inclined to identify their reasons.

That's why some Toledo City Council members suggest that spending money on extended benefits isn't fair to union members who made financial sacrifices in contract negotiations. They say street repairs are more important than social justice. Or they try to abrogate their duties by saying: Let the people vote.

Fairness should not count cost, but those who insist on putting a price tag on social justice should consider: Other governments that have extended benefits to domestic partners have had few takers, because the benefits would be taxable income. In Lucas County, only four out of about 4,000 county workers signed up.

So it's not about the money. Nor is it about the will of the people. There was no public outcry when Lucas County, the University of Toledo, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, or Owens Corning offered domestic-partner benefits. Ohio State University, Franklin County, and most Fortune 500 companies are among the dozens of public and private entities in Ohio that also have extended benefits to domestic partners.

And American society does not appear to be in danger of falling apart, despite evidence that fewer couples are choosing to formalize their relationship by marriage. State and national data show that teenage pregnancy and abortion rates have been dropping for two decades.

Toledo City Council put off the ordinance until a May 30 hearing. Nothing will have changed by then, but perhaps the delay will give council members time to resolve to do the right thing.

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