LETTER: Burien Treats Same Sex Couples “More Equal” Than Straight Ones

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The Burien council recently voted to make same sex couples MORE EQUAL than similarly situated unmarried opposite sex couples in the provisioning of taxpayer-funded employee benefits. As city employees, same sex couples no longer have to clear the reasonable hurdle of attesting that they are actually “involved” with one another; but similarly situated str8 couples must still prove the bona fides of their relationships.

Burien’s law now offers substantial taxpayer-funded goods to same sex couples based on payment of a mere $50 state registration fee. Even with the stigma and risk of violence for being “officially” gay/lesbian, $50 is a cheap sacrifice to get really good publicly-funded health benefits. Unmarried str8 couples, on the other hand, have to go an extra mile to prove they are ‘together’.

So, why not go all the way and treat married same sex couples the same as married str8 couples in public employment? Doing so would recognize that married same sex couples are as EQUAL as married str8 couples when it comes to being employed by the city of Burien. Burien’s revised ordinance now enshrines discrimination against str8 people. Shame on the Burien councilmembers who voted for discrimination.

I don’t want to treat committed gay familes better than committed str8 families. The violent and discriminatory opposite has been the law of the land far too long (DOMA, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, etc.). I want to treat committed couples — their children, their families — the same. Under a variety of day-to-day circumstances, state law now treats gay families better than unmarried str8 families.

By state law and Presidential edict, I cannot be denied access to my partner in the hospital: Executive Dow Constatine, however, can be denied that access to his partner.

How is that fair or equitable?

Stephen Lamphear
elected openly gay 1997 and 2001, defeated openly gay 2005 and 2007

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20 Responses to “LETTER: Burien Treats Same Sex Couples “More Equal” Than Straight Ones”
  1. Jim Branson says:

    –“elected openly gay 1997 and 2001, defeated openly gay 2005 and 2007.”

    Do you mean to suggest that your being openly gay had anything to do with your defeat in 2005 and 2007?

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      Hey Jim — just as mean-spirited as ever, I see. And after I voted to “help” you financially through the city purchasing your property that became Eagle Landing Park.

      As Alice Longworth Roosevelt used to say “If you’ve nothing good to say about anyone, come sit by me!”

      Take care, Jim.

      • Jim Branson says:

        In what sense is it mean spirited to ask you a question so that I can understand your point of view? The way you phrased it, you seemed to imply that your being “openly gay” had something to do with your being elected twice, and something to do with your not being elected twice after that. If it was important enough for you to bring it up, I thought I would try to understand what you were saying and why you were saying it.

      • Rainycity says:

        I take it from your response that you feel he owes you something??????

        • Jim Branson says:

          How in the world did you get that idea from what I wrote?

        • Jim Branson says:

          Oh. I’m guessing the “you” in your comment is Stephen, not me. Assuming that your question was aimed at Stephen, I would just like to make a few things clear about the sale of private property to the City of Burien for Eagle Landing Park. 1. I was not the owner. 2. No one asked the City to buy the property. The property was for sale, and the City chose to buy it, presumably because they thought it was in the city’s best interests. The sellers worked with the Trust for Public Lands to help make it possible. The sellers never made any personal pleas that the city buy the property as a favor to them. If the City did not buy it, it would have been sold to someone else. If Stephen Lamphear thinks he was helping me by voting for the purchase of the property, that is an idea he formed in his own mind, and not based on any conversation with me. I never asked him to vote one way or the other. The only thing I ever requested of the council members at the time was that they speed up their decision so we could sell it to someone else if they chose not to buy it.

      • kai. J says:


        You may well have some valid points, but in my successful educated opinion you were and continue to be one of the most divisive nasty aspects of Burien politics. It would surely be best if you spared us all anymore of your brand of narcissism.

  2. TcB says:

    anyone straight can just get married. End of story.

    • Sangraal says:

      No, that’s not really an “End of story” conclusion. True, anyone straight can get married. The costs associated with getting married as well as the additional time and resources are greater than a simple $50 registration fee. Also, were the married couple to get a divorce (which is no longer a rarity, unfortunately), there are the legal and financial costs of doing so – while a registered partnership can simply dissolve.

      This person is not arguing that marriage is not a viable alternative, he’s simply saying that this type of solution is silly in it’s over-reaching exclusivity. People shouldn’t expect to have the same rights as everyone else and also expect to have rights nobody else has at the same time.

      • Stephen Lamphear says:

        The city staff told the council that the new state domestic partners law REQUIRES the city to modify its employee benefits criteria. No matter how many people pointed out the error of that staff position (including one of the authors of the state DP statute), city staff kept plodding along to take SOME kind of action.

        Originally, city staff proposed terminating employee benefits for unmarried str8 domestic partners other than those where one partner is over 62 (one of the two classes of domestic partner under state law). Current employees getting benefits would have been grandfathered for 3 years.

        Again, staff told council that their proposal was REQUIRED by state law. In fact, state law does not dictate to whom the city may extend employee benefits. A recent state Supreme Court case out of Vancouver reaffirmed that cities can provision employee benefits as they choose — local control. That’s why some cities offer domestic partner benefits and others do not — completely lawful. Burien has been one of the few (perhaps the only city) to offer domestic partner benefits to anyone who met criteria developed in 2001. Burien was recognized by state and national organizations for it’s pioneering approach.

        State law on domestic partners is about certain LEGAL rights — it is not about provisioning of employee benefits. Only one section mentions employee benefits and that section says municipalities can CHOOSE to use the state definition. Cities are not REQUIRED to use the state definition. Burien was required by state law to do NOTHING. So, it it ain’t broke, why mess with it?

        As a consequence of the council’s recent action, if state Senator Joe McDermott became a city employee, he could get benefits for his male partner because he paid the $50 state registration fee. Contrary, if County Executive Dow Constantine became a city employee, he could NOT get benefits for his female partner without getting married OR going through reasonable hoops to attest that they are a couple because he CANNOT register with the state (being str8 and all that hoo-haw).

        The council’s action created at least 3 classes of city employee: 1) str8 married who get benefits with out proving anything; 2) same sex (including legally married same sex, plus unmarried str8 couples where one partner is over 62) partners who are registered with the state; and 3) same sex and qualified str8 couples who are not registered with the state. I maintain that a 3-tier system is inherently not equal and, in fact, is legally sanctioned discrimination based on marital status.

        The original rules treated every unmarried domestic partnership the same. What was the need to build in discrimination? The city staff was blowing smoke up a certain orafice of the council. Why?

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      Why should we FORCE anyone to get married just so their partner/children/family can be covered for medical benefits? There are lots more str8 domestic partnerships than same sex (and always have been). And there are lots of children involved in domestic partnerships. No one should be denied health coverage because of their marital status. Or in the case of Burien, put through greater qualifications just because they have the legal right to marry.

      Let all loving couples get married and we can end this debate — end of story!

  3. Ed Dacy says:

    All the recent action did was allow gay couples to get benifits by regitering, everything else is the same as provided in Mr Lamphere’s bill.

    Both Straight or Gay couples can go through the process that the City of Burien set up years ago to get benefits in the same manner. The gay couple who wants to be registered has to pay the fee to the state. But the striaght couple who wants to get married only needs to get the license and have someone perform the cermony.

  4. Sangraal says:

    Does anyone have a link to any of the documents or such related to this letter? I was going off the sparse info provided (granted), and I would like to read more before I make any more comments. Please understand – I am not against basic concepts put forth, just would like clarification and a better understanding of things.

  5. Coverofnight says:

    Marriage must be reserved only for straight couples. Gay couples living together are no different than straight people shacking up together. To give taxpayer-funded benefits to either gay couples or unmarried couples that match those given to married straight couples is ridiculous, in my opinion, but if that’s what our bonehead council has passed, the only recourse I have at this point is to help to vote them out and hopefully, vote in people who will overturn this waste of taxpayer money. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, he just hates gays!” – I’m not against gay relationships; just against giving my tax dollars to every whining, self-important group which is how the gay community projects itself to the public.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      Yep, that’s what the tea-baggers say. I’m not against YOU per se, just what you stand for.

      Don’t mess with my social security or my medicare! After all, when socialism benefits me, well then it’s not socialism — is it?

    • TcB says:

      We already had a vote. We voted you out. We bought you your bus tickets and you can leave in the morning.

  6. nartweag says:

    “So, why not go all the way and treat married same sex couples the same as married str8 couples in public employment? ”

    same sex couples can not get married, at least not in this state.

    i have to say i am rather confused by this letter. the talking points make no sense.
    i can only guess that the letter writer seems to feel that same sex individuals that are not actually couples will use the domestic partnership provisions solely to acquire benefits for one of the individuals without having to prove the couple-ness. not sure how they (either same or opposite sex couples) had to prove couple-ness before.

    • just thinking says:

      A few starter questions: Is marriage a sacrament? For those who believe it is, then why is the government promoting or discouraging a religious concept? For those who say marriage is not a sacrament, would it be fair to say civil marriage is a binding contract? If marriage is a civil contract, should government actively promote or discourage participation based on race, creed, male, female, or other factors? Finally, if government finds that a type of civil contract is beneficial to the social order (for example: providing forms of support for health, education, training of future citizens), would it not be best to make that type of contract available to the greatest number of our society?

      I would submit that only religious organizations should determine the rules under which they authorize a marriage. Government is free to regulate civil contracts in the interest of society, but should not promote one religious belief over another.

      • nartweag says:

        I agree. The government has no buisness having anything to do with marriage.
        Civil unions for everyone (same sex or opposite sex). It really is the only fair way.
        Religions that do not want to perform gay marriages, wont have to.
        Religions that want to be able to perform gay marriages could.

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