Last week, in an effort to ensure Salt Lake County’s gay and lesbian employees can’t get a fair shake, the County Council voted down a proposal to grant them the same benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. The benefits being voted on were the standard ones: spousal health, dental and life insurance.
It was a damp moment: Right after his vote to relegate an estimated 100 county employees to second-class status, Councilman Mark Crocket was reported to have leaked eye juice out of Republican lachrymal ducts. Fortunately, he was later able to seek comfort at home among his thoroughly insured family, but one can only guess at the volume of tears that were shed by the employees themselves.
The only reason gays and lesbians aren’t getting those benefits already is that their marriages cannot legally be recognized in Utah. This is based on long-standing tradition: We believe in the immeasurable societal good that stems from the unequal treatment of gays, in much the same way that we believe in Intelligent Design, cold fusion and The SCO Group’s ability to make money off something other than patent litigation.
The advantages the county gains through anti-gay discrimination obviously outweigh the challenges faced by county employees who face financial ruin when their partners incur hospital bills.
For one thing, denying health coverage to the nonrecognized spouses of gay employees provides an extra incentive for them to avoid getting sick. They’ll be much more careful to install safety decals in the bathtub when they realize that a slip-and-fall accident could result not only in a debilitating injury, but also in thousands of dollars of medical expenses.
The county’s main advantage, however, relates to the electability of its council members. Since constituents in Sandy and West Jordan believe that homosexuality is the result of demonic possession, voting for every anti-gay proposal ensures a smooth continuity of government and prevents any backlash against council members who act on well-reasoned principles. It’s not cowardice. It’s pragmatism.
Additionally, the vote ensured there would be no eventual challenge on the grounds of last year’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage'a challenge which would need to be defended at great expense to the taxpayer. After the recent unpleasantness regarding the unauthorized use of county vehicles'not to mention the unauthorized use of Nancy Workman’s daughter'the council is eager to economize. They’re really just looking out for us taxpayers.
During their 2004 campaign, proponents of the marriage amendment assured us again and again that the measure would never be used to deny equal treatment of gay and lesbian Utah citizens. Moral, upstanding community leaders that they are, we must take them at their word, and think of all the ways our state has benefited from the amendment:
First, it has prevented a mass immigration from the backward, Third World countries where same-sex marriages are legally recognized. One has only to look at the wretched state of places like Massachusetts, Canada and the Netherlands to see what a debilitating effect gay marriage has on culture and the economy.
Second, it has also done much to strengthen Utah’s families, if you don’t count the families that include gay people. Since the amendment passed, divorce rates have plummeted and family strife has become nonexistent. Also, ice cream is free, childbirth is painless and Calgon helps detergents get laundry up to 30 percent cleaner.
But above all else is this: By refusing to legally recognize the de facto marriages that gays and lesbians already have, the government demonstrates that subjecting a disenfranchised minority to sub-par treatment is the American way.
Brandon Burt is a freelance writer who lives in Salt Lake City.