Two Chatham County commissioners want their gay employees to get married if their partners want health benefits. Except, um, that's not quite legal.
Earlier this month, commissioners in the coastal county OK'd domestic partner benefits for county employees to match a similar move by the Savannah City Council in 2010. But the 4-3 vote wasn't enough as the measure needed five votes to take effect. So commissioners will try again on Friday.
On Feb. 13, Commissioners Patrick Farrell and Yusuf Shabazz (photo) joined Helen Stone in voting against the measure. Their reason? If LGBT employees want health benefits for their partners, they should get married.
Except that's not legal in Georgia. Yet.
Farrell and Shabazz stumbled their way to stalling the measure ignorant of the irony of their opposition.
Because of the “unknowns,” Farrell argued, the best way to handle the proposal is to maintain the county’s current policy.
“There is an avenue for employees to bring other folks onto the health benefits, and it’s through a marriage,” Farrell said. “I don’t see the need to open a Pandora’s box of unknowns and unknown expenses at this point.”
And Shabazz offered this:
“It’s giving those individuals who are not married the conveniences of being married,” he said. “I just don’t agree with going along with that. If that’s against what you stand for, you have to have some type of principles.”
Farrell and Shabazz were unmoved that offering health benefits to domestic partners would cost less than $50,000 and impact maybe seven of the 3,045 people on the county's health plan. They want to join Corkey in Smyrna, UGA President Jere Morehead and Anthony Coleman in Marietta as homophobes who can't fathom that LGBT employees deserve the same benefits as their straight colleagues.
What they need is a lesson in courage from this straight veteran.