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"Same-Sex Benefits Bill a Point of Controversy" by Erik Borg

A contentious bill that would give health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state employees was added to an omnibus bill last week.
This unique form of legislation, which groups various items into one bill, mainly features appropriations and state-employee salary changes, making the same-sex benefits article stand out as a glaring point of controversy among the numerical jargon.
The tactic employed by the Democrats in this instance is nothing new in state government, and is done in hopes of making opponents concede the passage of a controversial provision in order to pass the other components. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is adamantly opposed to the provision, cannot veto specific parts of the omnibus bill without rejecting the entire thing.
That sets the stage for heavy negotiations between the governor’s office and the Democratic Party before it ever reaches Pawlenty’s desk.
Standing alone, the bill likely would have received enough support from the Democrat-led House and Senate, but Pawlenty has vowed from the beginning to veto the bill. Democrats do not control enough seats in either chamber to override a veto.
The omnibus bill featuring the same-sex article has passed the Senate, and now is up for consideration in the House Finance Committee. If it clears committee negotiations with the same-sex article attached, it likely will pass the House vote and arrive on Pawlenty’s desk.
That means the article’s fate likely lies in committee negotiations over the next weeks. Sandy Davis, a spokesperson for Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, original co-author of the bill, warned though that omnibus bills generally come out looking significantly different than they do going into negotiations. She said the future of the article depends on the level of priority the Democrats give it.
“The governor’s office has a lot to do with the negotiations in committee before it’s voted on, and they surely would like to see it removed.? Davis said. “It depends on how much the (the Democrats) are willing to give to keep it in there.?
Pawlenty already has established a staunch record against same-sex initiatives. Two years ago, as House majority leader, he led the Republican effort that ended same-sex partner benefits for state employees. Last year, he backed a strong push to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.
An exact number of same-sex partners who might claim health insurance benefits has not been determined, but in 2004 there were 85 state employees who did so, according to the office of Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.
Jo Marsicano, communications director for OutFront Minnesota, an advocacy group for the state’s GLBT community, said the lack of benefits for same-sex couples is an injustice that clearly needs to be corrected.
She pointed to various Minnesota corporations and 13 other states that offer similar benefits to their gay and lesbian employees as proof that Minnesota should approve the measure.
“As a state, we should be leaders in the pursuit of equality, not followers, and that starts with our government,? she said.