Straight Couples Don’t Get The Same Benefit As Gay Couples – Unintended Consequences of The Illinois Civil Unions Law

by Beverly A. Pekala on October 18, 2011

Many thought passage of the Illinois ’ Civil Unions law would result in a level playing field for all couples, gay and straight. But as a recent story in the Chicago Tribune (October 14, 2011) demonstrates, straight couples and gay couples may not be treated equally when it comes to health care benefits. This time it’s not gay couples who aren’t being treated fairly but straight couples.    

 You might wonder how a law intended to address inequities suffered by gay couples has resulted in inequities now being suffered by straight couples. As is often the case with new laws (and not-so-new laws), the legal answer is complicated. But the short version is that some employers are entitled to offer health insurance benefits to gay couples in a civil union while denying those same benefits to straight couples in a civil union.

 Yes, you read that correctly. Straight couples are being treated differently than gay couples, and legally it’s okay. Go figure.

 Those who staunchly supported Illinois civil unions argued that a law was needed to address the unequal treatment suffered by gay and lesbian couples. Certainly the unfair treatment now suffered by straight couples was never intended by advocates of the Illinois Civil Unions law and surely is not supported by civil unions advocates. 

 Sometimes laws require fixing precisely because of unintended consequences. Clearly it’s time to go back to the drawing board and fix this.


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