Pounds: Friends with benefitsWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
With relatively few exceptions, we have supported the legislative efforts of Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara and Councilman Tom Waniewski. So when an issue such as extending domestic partner benefits to City of Toledo employees sharply divides the two public servants, it merits a close look.
As Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Sarah Marie Thompson reported April 27, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell has announced the introduction of legislation that will provide benefits to domestic partners of city employees.
If Council approves it, “the legislation will offer the same health, dental and vision benefits to domestic partners of city employees that are offered to married couples and their children. Eligibility will be granted to same-sex and heterosexual couples who meet the criteria for domestic partnership as outlined in the Toledo Municipal Code. Employees will be required to obtain a certificate recognizing their partnership through the city’s Domestic Partner Registry.”
McNamara, with Councilman Steve Steel and David Mann, President of EqualityToledo Community Action, spoke in support of the legislation. But at a meeting May 1, councilmen Waniewski, Rob Ludeman and D. Michael Collins opposed the legislation, citing reasons ranging from muddy financial estimates to recently completed union negotiations.
While the councilmen are correct in raising questions about the specifics of the proposal, they are focusing on short-term concerns at the expense of a long-term benefit. From a purely business and pragmatic point of view, offering domestic partner benefits makes sense. It is a recruitment tool and undoubtedly an inevitable element of retaining quality employees. As the legislation states, “Currently, 21 states and over 200 local governments, at least 98 Fortune 100 companies, 442 Fortune 500 companies, and approximately 9,000 other private companies, non-profit organizations and unions provide health insurance and other benefits to their employees’ domestic partners. In Toledo, these employers include the University of Toledo, Lucas County, Owens Corning and the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce. Furthermore, the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Franklin County offer their employees domestic partner benefits and at least 14 Ohio public and private universities and colleges offer these benefits.”
Yes, there are questions that should be raised and nothing should be approved without scrutiny. But extending domestic partner benefits makes sense and we urge Council to approve the mayor’s proposal.
However, it is distressing to see men as learned as McNamara and Waniewski become entangled in personal rhetoric that stems more from emotion than intellect. McNamara did not use the word “homophobia” to describe the opposition but he implied it, and Waniewski and Collins were correct in objecting to that implication.
Bell’s proposal should be considered as a business incentive, not a social issue, and on those merits, it should be implemented.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.