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One Moment, Please... More than a relationship status

Fri, Aug 9th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

By Jason Sethre


Fillmore County Journal &

Olmsted County Journal

Cell: 507-251-5297


This past weekend, we had a family gathering in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities, catching up with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and my last living grandmother -- living all around the state of Minnesota.

It was a great reunion, and our children had a chance to meet and play with their second cousins.

As our conversations took place throughout the day, the topic of same-sex marriage came up.

To be honest, I haven’t taken an interest in this topic mainly because I am more concerned with other things in our world. I am not trying to downplay the significance of this change by any means. I am just saying that I am more concerned with things like our economy, unemployment, taxation, education systems, and government spending.

So, I haven’t necessarily taken sides on this issue. To me it is a non-issue, which probably means to some people that I am against same-sex marriage. Not true. If I were adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, then we wouldn’t have published our first-ever same-sex marriage engagement announcement in the July 22, 2013 issue of the Fillmore County Journal.

I’m not at all surprised that I received mixed reviews for publishing that announcement, probably because it was the first same-sex marriage announcement we’ve published in our newspaper ever before. There were Facebook messages, e-mails, text messages, phone calls, and a few face-to-face conversations about my decision to run that in the Fillmore County Journal. Some people were supportive of that decision, while others were more curious about if I had received any other feedback. But, nobody was obnoxious or openly opposed to that announcement appearing in the newspaper.

Getting back to our family gathering and the conversation about same-sex marriage, the topic brought to light things I had never thought about.

One of my cousins is engaged to be married in 2014, and his fiancee pointed out that her mother was going to be affected by the change in law relating to same-sex marriage.

She shared that her mother was married and then divorced, and she never wanted to remarry again. But, her mother eventually found herself in a relationship with a man and they had been together long enough that this relationship was looking like a long-term situation.

So, they went to the courthouse and filed the paperwork for recognition as a domestic partnership. When they went before the judge, he actually indicated that this was the first time he had ever seen a domestic partnership filed by an opposite-sex couple.

Upon filing for the domestic partnership, the boyfriend became eligible for health insurance benefits with my cousin’s fiancee’s mother’s employer (you follow me?).

But, again, she didn’t want to get married ever again. So, a domestic partnership was a commitment at a level at which she felt most comfortable. And, this status provided her and her companion with the means to take advantage of employer benefits.

Now that same-sex marriage has been made legal in the state of Minnesota effective August 1, 2013, that domestic partnership no longer qualifies their relationship status as eligible for shared health insurance benefits through that particular employer.

They will now need to get married in order to receive the benefits they were getting as legally recognized domestic partners.

I guess legalizing same-sex marriage does have a cause and effect I would have never anticipated. It’s kind of like anything else that is changed with respect to our laws. Whenever we initiate change, there is always a ripple effect of both predictable and unforeseen change that follows.

I’m sure this employer that was formerly recognizing domestic partnerships as eligible for health insurance benefits is attempting to weed out some health care coverage costs, potentially forcing people to step up their level of commitment in order to retain that eligibility. That’s my initial assumption.

What’s interesting to me is how legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Minnesota has essentially devalued the status of a domestic partnership to some degree.

During our family gathering, as this conversation progressed, I jokingly said, “So, a legally recognized domestic partnership is more like a learner’s permit now, right?”

Of course, it was a family gathering and I was aiming for a chuckle.

But, there is some truth to that. Why form a domestic partnership when you can get married?

There is a bigger issue here that goes beyond marriage equality. What’s interesting and kind of sad is that some of these relationship status changes are motivated by benefits such as health insurance.

I’m not pointing fingers. I am just stating a fact. Health insurance coverage is a big expense.

Essentially, big business, and namely the outrageous cost of health care can pretty much change the way we look at the value of a domestic partnership versus marriage.

If you ever get a chance to watch the 2007 comedy “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” you’ll see that my assertion isn’t too far off from reality.

In America, our legally recognized relationship status has an impact on our health care and our finances.

And, that’s what prompts my attention more than anything. While we may have addressed what some people felt was marriage inequality (and I’m not here to debate that), we still have an ongoing issue with rising health care costs.

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