Legislators push for domestic partner benefits for state employees


A slate of 35 DFLers introduced legislation on Monday that would allow state employment contracts to include benefits for same-sex domestic partners. The bill aims to restore benefits that were offered during the administration of Gov. Jesse Ventura but repealed under pressure from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republican legislators in 2003.

HF1438 states, “If a collective bargaining agreement or plan provides state paid health insurance for spouses of employees, the insurance must be made available to domestic partners of state employees on the same terms and conditions.”

The bill also defines the term domestic partners as a same-sex couple as two adults who “(1) are responsible for each other’s basic common welfare; (2) share a common residence and intend to do so indefinitely; (3) are not related by blood or adoption to an extent that would prohibit marriage in this state; and (4) are legally competent and qualified to enter into a contract.”

In 2000, then-Gov. Jesse Ventura included domestic partner benefits for the following biennium.

In 2003, a Republican-led House refused to ratify a labor contract that contained the benefits, and 85 families lost their health and life insurance benefits.

For the past few years, DFLers have attempted to have those benefits reinstated, with limited success. They’ve been passed by the Legislature but stripped from budget bills in order to appease former Gov. Pawlenty.

Though polls show that Minnesotans do not support same-sex marriage, a large majority – even among Republicans – support the state offering some kind of benefits for same-sex couples.

According to an MPR poll from last fall, “The majority, 64% (including 56% of Emmer supporters, 55% of Republicans, and 56% of independents) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples.”

A KSTP poll in 2009 found exactly the same level of support for limited relationship rights for same-sex couples.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, Mindy Greiling of Roseville, Ryan Winkler of St. Louis Park, Karen Clark of Minneapolis, Jim Davnie of Minneapolis, Lyndon Carlson Sr. of Crystal, Paul Thissen of Minneapolis, Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center; Marion Greene of Minneapolis, Steve Simon of St. Louis Park, Thomas Huntley of Duluth, Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Carlos Mariani of St. Paul, Sheldon Johnson of St Paul, Kerry Gauthier of St. Paul, Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis; Kate Knuth of New Brighton, Bill Hilty of Finlayson, Tom Anzelc of Balsam Township, Erin Murphy of St. Paul, Rena Moran of St. Paul, Leon Lillie of North St. Paul, Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis, Bobby Jo Champion of Minneapolis, Linda Slocum of Richfield, John Benson of Minnetonka, Carly Melin of Hibbing, Tom Tillberry of Fridley, Rick Hansen of South St. Paul, Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis, Diane Loeffler of Minneapolis; Sandra Peterson of New Hope, Tina Liebling of Rochester, Tom Rukavina of Virginia and Michael Paymar of St. Paul.