Alex Blaze

Anti-gay ballot initiatives hurt straight people too

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 05, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics

The only anti-gay ballot initiative that passed this week that I know of was in El Paso. Surprise surprise, it was poorly-worded and now everyone's getting benefits cut:

gay civil rights.jpgBy a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, voters passed an initiative saying, "The city of El Paso endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children."

In response, the city attorney's office released a statement Wednesday saying there could be legal challenges, but the city will eliminate health coverage of:

  • Gay and unmarried partners of city employees.
  • Children such as foster kids who are not dependents under the federal tax code.
  • Grandchildren of city employees.
  • Retirees who are eligible for health coverage through another employer.

Now homophobes are rushing to reinterpret the wording of the ballot initiative, saying that no one meant to hurt anyone but the gays and unmarried straight couples (they're living in sin too). Turns out their telepathic powers are better than anyone could have imagined:

The Rev. Tom Brown helped organize the ballot initiative. He said supporters never intended to eliminate benefits for anybody but gay and unmarried domestic partners of city employees.

On Wednesday, Brown said he would have to talk with his group's attorney before he could comment on the proposal to cut benefits to some retirees, dependents and grandchildren.

Some on the City Council are mulling an ordinance extending benefits to all but employees' gay and unmarried partners. They say a poorly worded initiative is forcing them to consider the step.

"The problem is we have to ask ourselves, what was the intent of the voters?" city Rep. Steve Ortega said.

City Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Ortega both supported the domestic partners benefit when the City Council created it last year.

But they said they would respect the will of the voters -- as they understand it.

"It seems clear that a majority of voters in El Paso do not want to extend benefits to domestic partners of city employees," O'Rourke said. "I think we've got to respect that."

But O'Rourke said he will propose an ordinance maintaining benefits for those other than domestic partners, and Ortega said he would support such a move.

Determining voter intent is a tricky business, though. Many said they were confused by the wording of the initiative. For example, Lourdis Pinedo, 48, said she mistakenly voted for the ballot initiative.

"I thought I was voting for gay and unmarried partners to have insurance," she said Wednesday.

Who knows if there weren't people who voted for the measure just because they don't like health care benefits. After seeing all these folks on the right last year come out against "big government" and "tax and spend," specifically with regards to health care, I wouldn't be surprised to find out if there are people who think that cutting the elderly and foster children off from doctors and medication is just icing on the cake. Why don't they just get a job instead of being parasites on the system, etc.

What's interesting though is how quickly the right went from "literal interpretation of the law" to "what was the intent of the voters?" The literal interpretation is fairly clear: everyone who's not an employee, their legal spouse, or their child loses health care. The article seems to imply that the city council doesn't have to follow the results of the initiative, but they either respect it or they reject it. Enforcing only part of it, the part that certain city councillors like, is disingenuous. The results were close enough that if even 10% of the people who voted for the initiative disagree with an interpretation then it would have failed.

The irony is that there are probably many people who depend on these benefits who ended up voting for the initiative, considering some people thought it was hard to interpret. I can understand - not everyone knows that "traditional family values" is code for sexism and homophobia and most people don't know the whole list of people getting their health care coverage from the city.

These initiatives to take away health care and domestic partner benefits from sinful couples (gay or unmarried) are based on two faulty premises: 1) that people's relationships with others are simple and easily whittled down to a handful of important relationships; and 2) that it's moral to deny people access to health care in order to force them to do what you want them to do. Since many Americans are perfectly comfortable with both premises, there will be plenty more ballot initiatives like this one coming.

Whether it's X group or Y group or XYZ all together getting their health care cut doesn't matter; when people decide to go vote to keep others from getting the help they need to stay alive something is already deeply broken in our culture. It's a violent mentality that can't help but hurt more people than intended.

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Alex I believe that I have a great idea to counter situations like this but I need help to get it started.My idea is neither left nor right and is based on sound American values.I need a person that knows how to trademark names,people who know how to set up a non profit political group and financing for advertising.I believe my idea can be widely accepted by the gay community and the vast majority of Americans and it can also make maximum use of the LGBT strengths of creativity and performance art.

Do tell! I'm intrigued.

So the question I have is this: "Is ignorance just as bad as prejudice?"

Answer: Only if it backfires.

I cant help but think that throwing the str8 cohabitators in with us can't but help our cause. At the least it hopefully caught a bunch of them out when they voted for this thinking they were only voting against queer folk.

On the value that America was born on the notion of "Freedom From Religious Persecution" I recommend that we and anyone we can find who also suffers from religious persecution protest at every State House and in Washington D.C our persecution.We call for the elimination of religion from politics something both parties are guilty of. We call for the ending of anything that even bares a slight resemblance to a religious test for public office like When President Obama and Senator McCain met and were questioned by Rick Warren at Saddleback church.We call for our elected officials to honor their oaths of office and to get to work fixing this country's very real problems.We call a spade a spade and point out the similarities between the religious right and the Church of England at our country's founding.We point out that no one really wants religious laws to effect them why is it right to deny us our rights based on those same beliefs.Call out all those Ministers who are writing ballet initiatives and pushing them as those who are using religion to persecute not foster good will. My idea goes so so much deeper than this.This is just the beginning of grabbing the religious tiger by the tail and yanking its teeth out then maybe giving it a much needed kick in the ass.

Isn't it time to start thinking of all spouses as domestic partners? After all, if you're writing a law that singles out unmarried heterosexual couples and gay couples, many of whom stay together longer than heterosexuals, shouldn't we also have laws that punish unmarried mothers and their children, like, say, Bristol Palin. What about a law that deals with children who don't honor their parents? That's one of the Ten Commandments! Sorry, I'm over using theocratic teachings to try to rule my life! My religion is personal; my government should have nothing to say about it!

I think it's clear that the majority of citizens would also like to skip out on paying their fair share of taxes too. Maybe they should respect that too. Or the majority of people who speed while driving. No more speed limits!

This could be fun if we take this logic to it's natural conclusion.

Paige Listerud | November 7, 2010 11:10 AM

Nothing would please me more than if heterosexuals became energized into fighting for sexual civil rights by laws like this one. Currently, even if they are pro-LGBTQ rights, they also might not see the urgency of opposing the religious right, right now, if they think this will never happen to them. Waking them up from heteroprivilege early enough to get them to agitate against legislated morality is often an added chore for LGBTQ activists.