Monday, June 18, 2007

Antics with Semantics or How to Insure the Invisible Partner (update)

Good news for non-heterosexual households in Michigan. Michigan State University has a plan to continue providing benefits to persons formerly known as "domestic partners." Now these family members will be called "other eligible individuals" for the sake of conforming to the restrictively interpreted language of Michigan's man/woman marriage amendment. MSU will begin a pilot program with the new language July 1 and review it annually.

According to a June 15 piece from Inside Higher Ed, "The new policy doesn’t distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex living arrangements, and in fact it would cover people who aren’t really couples in any sense, but who merely share a home."

The message in Michigan seems to be: if you are gay or lesbian and in a committed relationship, in order to receive the employment benefits that accrue to heterosexuals in partnered relationships, your relationship must be rendered invisible. If your relationship is invisible, you can have benefits. The proponents of the marriage amendment said they didn't want to take benefits away from anyone, just clarify the definition of marriage. Mission accomplished.

Update: Late this morning, University of Michigan announced,"Effective Jan. 1, 2008, a new category of dependent called Other Qualified Adult (OQA) is being offered to all benefits-eligible U-M employees. A set of specific eligibility requirements defines the criteria required for OQA coverage."

OQAs or OEIs? Neither has the same ring as "spouse."

Related Post: "The Law is the Law"