I knew that the fallout from the new state constitutional ban on civil unions and same-sex marriage would take strange forms, but I didn't expect so much strangeness so soon. A recent edition of the Capital Times reported that, in the wake of the ban, LGBT rights advocates will be working to get domestic partnership benefits for UW system employees. That's not the strange part.
The strange part is the other side's response. Julaine Appling, executive director of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, told the Cap Times on Saturday that FRI would oppose any effort to use taxpayer dollars "to benefit sexual relationships outside of marriage."
Appling goes on to note, however, that FRI wouldn't stand in the way of using those dollars to support a domestic partnership that was based on simply living together rather than sexual activity. The reporter summarized Appling's position this way: "Domestic partner benefits based on living arrangements would pass muster, as long as the individuals were not sexually involved -- a domestic situation involving a grandmother, for instance, who wanted to cover her grandson under her health insurance policy."
OK, so FRI will endorse cohabitation -- even help couples get state health insurance and pensions -- as long as the partners involved don't have sex? Cool. I might be tempted to sign up, but I have a few questions for Appling first:
- Will the state employee charged with checking on my daily behavior (let's call him "Chauncey") have to live at my house? If so, will the state be setting up some kind of subsidy program to help me remodel the attic so there's room for him? You see, the four kids my partner and I have are already using two of the bedrooms, and I have to use a third one for my home office.
- Will Chauncey be watching only for physical intimacy, or will he also be concerned with phone sex, lustful thoughts or email? What about post-workout shoulder rubs? Will the state's concern reach as far as lingering eye contact while we're washing the dishes or doing the laundry?
- If the common estimate of the LGBT population is correct (10 percent), and the Wisconsin state population is 5.5 million, that means that there are 550,000 LGBT people in Dairyland. Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that each of us is an adult paired off with another gay Wisconsinite and all of us couples are co-habitating. That means that there will have to be 275,000 new state employees to adequately monitor our activity. How does FRI propose to pay for this giant new bureaucracy? A licensing fee for hate speech?
- And what will the new state bureau be called? My vote: Natural Orientation Supervision EXtension, or NOS-EX.
But seriously, I guess I should be grateful that Julaine Appling has realized that families come in all configurations, and that "living arrangements" are just that -- arrangements that allow us families to live as best we can.
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.