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Publisher / Editor:
Paul Hayden

Spousal Benefits an Assault on Marriage

November 7, 2011

I have a small plaque in my office that reads, "I wasn't born in Nebraska, but I got here as soon as I could." A native Iowan, I have now spent two thirds of the life the Lord has thus far granted me here in the Cornhusker state, and I have generally not regretted my decision to move here to attend college, marry my bride and raise our family. I feel that way most days; other days, not so much.

One of my proudest moments in my adopted state was when my courageous friend Guyla Mills, then head of the Nebraska Family Council, led the successful petition drive to put Nebraska's Defense of Marriage Amendment on the ballot in the year 2000. My own name was also on the ballot that year in my one and only attempt to be elected to public office. I lost my race for the Nebraska State Legislature that year, but Nebraska families won a decisive victory as Initiative 416 passed with more than 70 percent of the vote. The amendment reads as follows:

"Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska."

The homosexual lobby in particular and the Left in general have never gotten over the snit into which that second sentence in the amendment threw them. They have been huffing and puffing for more than a decade now about how "unconstitutional" it is an argument whose validity has so far failed in the courts.

Meanwhile, the assault on traditional, monogamous, heterosexual marriage in Nebraska continues unabated, with the latest ambush coming from where else? academia. It seems that the powers that be at the University of Nebraska, including the presidents of all three campuses and the University Board of Regents, have decided that in order to be "competitive," the NU system simply must offer spousal benefits (i.e., health insurance) to the significant others of unmarried persons, including same-sex partners.

This news was announced to the public just last week. At a time when families are struggling to hold on to jobs, pay for their own health care and meet other obligations, Nebraskans are being told we must bear the cost of putting the boyfriends and girlfriends of university employees on NU's health insurance plan.

Having just joined the venerable Big Ten this year, money and prestige were supposed to flow into the system like milk and honey, both in athletics (especially football) and in research. Nebraska, we were told, should be honored to be invited into this lauded conference. Now, we are being told, we are the only school in the Big Ten that does not offer such benefits to unmarried couples. Shame on us for being such backward hicks!

The onslaught of propaganda for this change in policy is laughably contradictory. On the one hand, NU officials tell us, professors and researchers and other valuable academics are either leaving Nebraska or passing us by in favor of other schools because we do not offer this expensive perk. Then, in order to persuade us of the negligible costs of such a program, they provide figures such as this one: directly to our east, at the University of Iowa, a fellow Big Ten school, barely 100 couples utilize a similar program out of 25,000 employees!

So which is it? Is this the deal-breaker we are being led to believe for so many in the academic community, or is it merely a benefit used by an insignificant fraction of employees, which will add little or no cost to our taxpayer-funded university health care coverage? You can't have it both ways.

What no one seems to be asking in this whole debate is whether this proposed policy is even legal. Given that the Nebraska State Constitution clearly forbids the recognition of any form of counterfeit marriage, including domestic partnerships and civil unions, then how can the state's public university system give spousal benefits to employees who are involved in just such arrangements?

Nebraska taxpayers await an answer to that question.

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Copyright ©2011 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.