Tuesday, January 11, 2011

City Council to Discuss Benefits for Gay Partners--TONIGHT: Tuesday, January 11th

Posted by: Noël Jones

The Administration Committee of Easton City Council, chaired by West Ward City Council Representative, Mike Fleck, will be discussing an ordinance to offer same sex partner benefits to employees of the City of Easton. The meeting is at 6pm on the 6th floor of Easton City Hall at One South Third Street in the Alpha Building, TONIGHT--TUESDAY, JANUARY 11TH.  If anyone has any questions they can call Mike Fleck at 484-866-7437 or email him at mfleck@easton-pa.gov .  

I hope to see a lot of people there tonight to be counted as standing up for civil rights. This is the last bastion of civil rights inequity in our country and it's time to move forward into the new millennium standing up for the obvious: that regardless of one's orientation, liberty and equality for all in America means liberty and equality for ALL AMERICANS.


tunsie said...

I think if you are gay and lesbian or straight your partner,whether a man or woman deserve to have beefits under your plan.why is it there is not an issue with straight people.but gay and lesbians are frowned upon.they are a couple as well....They deserve the benefits as well......I love u noel.......Tunsie

tunsie said...
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Smart Dude said...

so-called 'straight' partners can only get benefits when they are MARRIED, correct? like if I have my girlfriend living w/ me, she can't get benefits because, well, I'm just living w/ her. but if we get married, she is my WIFE, and can receive benefits, social security, etc.
a legal COMMITMENT is required.
so how would a local gov't determine that you are 'committed' to your same sex partner, and not just 2 dudes living together?
sure, you SAY you are husband and husband, but what proves it?
and what would then prevent 2 'straight' women/2 'straight' men moving in together just so one of them can get 'spousal' benefits?

this is NOT about civil rights; it IS, AND ALWAYS WAS, about THE MONEY.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Smart Dude,
You're absolutely right. Straight unmarried couples can't get benefits, because they have the option of marriage. Gay couples don't have the option of marriage. To resolve the problem that you raised, gay couples should be allowed to get married.

And yes, it is about the money. I worked hard and earned a pension. If I die, pension benefits will not continue on behalf of my same-sex partner. Pension benefits for my straight colleagues, however, will go to their spouses if they die. The differential treatment is inequitable, unjust, and yes, results in tens of thousands of dollars of lost benefits.

suddenly a gay dude said...

ok, then Julie, instead of just rooming w/ my buddy who doesn't have a job/benefits, we'll get 'married' then I'll claim him on my benefits!
thanks! that's a great idea!

noel jones said...

SAGD--this was one of the mayor's concerns (although not posed in as snarky a tone) and the parameters that these couples have to go through to prove they are domestic partners were explained.

Aside from living together:

1. both people must be jointly responsible for each other's basic living expenses;
2. neither partner can be part of an existing domestic partnership, civil union or marriage with any third party;
3. neither individual can have been in another registered domestic partnership in the 30 days preceding the date of the registration of the present DP;
4. individuals cannot marry each other under the laws of the Commonwealth of PA;
5. each individual is competent to enter into a contract; is eighteen years of age or older; and both are not related to one another in any way that would bar marriage in the Commonwealth of PA; and
6. both agree under penalty of perjury and LOSS OF EMPLOYMENT to notify the City of any change in the status of the DP

They also must provide when registering, one document from List A and two from List B:

List A (Residency)

1. a least or sublease indicating that their residence is rented by both individuals;
2. a deed or mortgage indicating that their residence is owned by both individuals;
3. driver's licenses for both individuals showing the same address;

List B (Joint Responsibility)

1. a deed or mortgage showing joint ownership;
2. Evidence of a joint credit card, debit or bank account;
3. A will or life insurance policy of one individual that names the other individual as a beneficiary;
4. Documents showing that one or both individuals have power of attorney over the other; or
5. Any document that in the opinion of the Dir. of HR conclusively demonstrates the individuals are domestic partners living together and are jointly responsible for each other's basic living expenses as defined by the ordinance.

They also have to sign a sworn affidavit (the one that, if violated, will cause them to be guilty of perjury and lose their job).

So this ordinance is strictly for gay couples who are currently not permitted to marry in PA and that qualifications and penalties are strict.

noel jones said...

the mayor made it very clear that they are not about to shell money out of the city budget for anyone who is just "playing roommates."

this ordinance is for serious same-sex couples in real need of benefits--don't forget, they also have to pay taxes on the benefits as INCOME, which is a steep bill on top of premiums, and something straight married couples do not have to pay. this is a serious deterrent for anyone who doesn't really need them--if they could get them from another employer for cheaper, they would.

suddenly a gay dude said...

no prob! we can meet ALL of those qualifications, because I help my roomie (we've been friends for years) get a loan, AND I co-signed his credit card, our drivers liscenses show the same address, we got the lease in both our names (in case one of us left, but we've been here awhile already)we aren't currently dating anyone, so I think we'd be able to pull this off! (we do sleep in separate rooms though, we're not THAT close!)

suddenly a gay dude said...

BTW, if you think I'm mocking 'civil unions', I'm NOT. I'm pointing out the fact that the liberal left wing politically correct don't want to offend anyone culture is RIDICKULOUS.
If I choose to live with a dude, we do everything together, share expenses, why can't I have the same benefits as 2 gay dudes living together?

noel jones said...

SAGD--actually you're touching on an interesting possibility in the future--i have been saying for years that if gay marriage becomes legal, it will at first most greatly affect gay couples who will finally be able to reap the legal benefits of opposite-sex couples, but that eventually straight women will start marrying each other to find the level of commitment and communicativeness that they get frustrated trying to find in men (while finding sex outside the relationship only when they feel like it), and straight men--once they get over their homophobia--will start wondering why they should legally combine their finances with women at all, when they make 72 cents on the male dollar (and of course will find sex outside the relationship too) until we end up with marriage being not so much a legal bond to whomever you are having sex with, the but to people you either can count on most, or make the most money with.

that's my crystal ball folks.

but all that speculation has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that gay couples right now are being discriminated against, and they need benefits, like any straight couple--i seriously doubt that anyone straight is willing to jump through all of these hoops and pay all that extra money just to get gay benefits. we're talking about long-term serious partnerships here, and all the snarkiness in the world doesn't change the fact that they are being discriminated against--it's a civil rights issue, and it's time to act like we know we are in the new millennium.

churches are at liberty to deny marrying anyone they want. but our government is not at liberty to discriminate, and thankfully the tide of public opinion is shifting away from blatant homophobia to a more laissez-faire acknowledgement that people are people and everyone's rights should be the same, if you haven't committed a crime in this country.

but if you want to shack up with another straight dude and pay more money for benefits just to prove that the system can be cheated, good luck. you would have first, get a job with the city, then go through all that paperwork and combining of your finances, and then try not to ever get caught in a small town dating women. if that's a particularly attractive scenario to you, then you might want to reconsider your orientation.

noel jones said...

Here's my rundown of the meeting last night:

Mike Fleck opened the topic for discussion, and while the support for the ordinance seemed strong on council, the first caveats came from City Administrator, Glen Steckman, who cautioned that it would cost the city a good deal of money to extend these benefits.

Fleck responded that he didn't see it as a money issue, but a civil rights issue--that at one time the same was said of extending benefits to women and African-Americans--that the issue today is equality for gay people. "It's just the right thing to do." He also said that he felt that despite any costs, there could be benefits to making it known that Easton is a city of opportunity for progressive and/or gay people that might consider about moving here.

Mayor Panto expressed his support of parity for gay domestic partnerships, but also expressed concern about losing control of a collective bargaining agreement with the unions, by just giving out a benefit without bargaining for anything in return.

El Warner suggested that if the city gets the language right in the ordinance, that the goal is to word it so that gay domestic partnerships are treated in the same way as married couples, and therefore they could be part of the collective bargaining agreement.

Mayor Panto also expressed concern over fraud by people who are simply in roommate situations.

Liz Bradbury, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Diversity Network, explained that that was not an issue because the qualifications in the ordinance are very strict, in addition to the fact that gay couples must pay taxes on the benefits as if they were income, on top of the premiums, so that it was in fact cost prohibitive for anyone who was not in a committed relationship and unable to get benefits elsewhere. As to Steckman’s concern about cost, she reminded council that Harrisburg employees already have such an ordinance, but that it covers both gay and straight domestic partnerships, and that the total number of those who signed up was only seven.

Glenn Steckman responded that he had already had “five to seven people” that work for the City of Easton that had asked him about the potential benefits.

Council tossed around the pros and cons of including straight domestic partnerships in the ordinance, and decided that marriage already covers the straight folks and that this ordinance should just address gay couples in domestic partnerships, since they cannot legally marry in the state of PA yet.

Ken Brown said that the discussion was, “very educational for me…I’m all for this…we’re talking about fairness for all human beings.”

El Warner said “There may be a price, but maybe not…and fairness is priceless.”

At the end of the discussion, council agreed to add language that refers to “spouses and dependents” to make sure that children of gay couples would also be covered.

The next Administrative Committee meeting that will address this issue will be the 2nd Tuesday of February.

noel jones said...

Ed Sieger also covered this for the Express-Times:


tunsie said...

there have been gay lesbian relationships forever only recently has it become comfortable in our society....we need to deal with legalities sooner or later....why not now.....

Anonymous said...

I think this is all political drama.

If you have not noticed, businesses, governments and non profits have been slowly eliminating spouses and children from the free health care benefit. Most are requiring payment and the payments are increasing every year. I would suspect that Easton is looking for more and more co pay and fairness dictates protect the employee and charge all dependents. Why should a single employee get a benefit of $10,000 per year while a six member family gets $60,000? If you get health care then you will ultimately have to pay the bill. What have you really gained?

Jes Tice said...

For two same sex people to get "married" just to game the system would be no different than persons of the opposite sex doing that. Do opposite sex couples do this, in fact? Not all that often. Binding yourself up with someone financially and legally whether of same or opposite sex has consequences. Such consequences are the reason you don't have heterosexuals getting married left and right just to get benefits. Although some may stay married to keep benefits. Smart Dude, unless you are prepared to make a long term committment to your roomate and vice versa you can posit these hypotheticals but you wouldn't marry another dude because...you are smart - right?

Smart Dude said...

as I said, I was being 'snarky' to point out how ridiculous it is to try to cater to every fringe element of society.
perhaps in another 100 years pedophilia will again be an acceptable part of society like it was in Rome and we'll have to make concessions to them as well...

Anonymous said...

from msn money:

Here's why: Though the value of health benefits that employers pay on behalf of workers' spouses is excluded from employees' gross income by federal law, same-sex couples aren't extended the same tax breaks. That is, the value of a domestic partner's health insurance benefit is counted as income paid to the worker.

If that is the case, it's a nightmare for the city to properly account and the issue needs to wait until corrected by federal law.

noel jones said...

"Smart" Dude--you are showing more of your colors now and are clearly prejudiced if you are calling gay people "fringe" and comparing them to criminals who abuse children, so don't claim to be arguing against it for any reason other than bigotry. you will be deleted if you insist on posting bigoted comments.

approximately 10% of our population is gay last time i heard any statistics, so by your logic, no ethnicities outside of white, black and latino should be covered. the disabled would also not be covered by your "fringe" rationale.

it is not a crime to be gay. pedophilia is a crime. it's as ridiculous as saying "we might have to extend benefits to car-thieves"--one has nothing to do with the other.

Smart Dude said...

thanks for the censorship Noel. you have successfully chased me away, I will no longer be muddling up your blog with a different point of view or bothering to visit.

tunsie said...

well now that there R complaints on the table.I have a couple of gripes.what is the big PROBLEM with me telling my favouritst bestest Noel that I love her....I do..I do love noel.why do people get upset with me telling my friend Noel that I love her..I met this inside/outside beautiful woman at my pub..she dug the music....I saw her again at the colonial pub for support of a candidate that she and I knew....I sat in the corner for one hour alone,little did I know that everybody there was not allowed to say hello to me because there was somebody there and she made everyone avoid me[these R ADULTS mind u] when I got up to leave because I didnt want to make trouble NOEL noticed I was there and began to talk to me...she doesnt subscibe to second grade behaviour.....I love noel and if I want to tell her that every day.recently she was at a birthday party I was at.and the crowd gave me a microphone and asked me to speak about JAZZ.I spoke and spoke and spoke after which I recieved a very loud applause.my fried noel was prompted to come to one of my many gigs and enjoyed herself.she is the best person in the whole wide world and I dont know why telling my friend I love her detracts from any issue.....I YUV U NOEL.....tunsie

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Kudos to Mike Fleck and to all our elected officials who supported this equality initiative.

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diff'rent anon said...
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