It’s doubtful that conversations generated by the Highlands County Insurance Commission typically are scintillating, but last week there was plenty of debate about an issue regarding the county’s insurance allowing same-sex married partners to have access to insurance.
Clerk of Courts Bob Germaine raised objections because he knew nothing about the county’s insurer, Florida Blue, changing its policy after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down defense of marriage acts across the land. The IRS notified insurance companies they could not discriminate if a couple is legally married, even if individual states do not allow same-sex marriages.
Germaine believed it’s a matter that should have been widely known by all county employees. Randall Vosburg, assistant county administrator, said he privately checked with his insurance provider and attained coverage for his spouse. He resents that Germaine, Tax Collector Eric Zwayer and Property Appraiser Raymond McIntyre act as if he did something wrong or was trying to hide something.
Germaine, Zwayer and McIntyre have a legitimate point that a change in insurance coverage should have been announced by the insurance carrier, and all employees be notified of changes. However, we believe Germaine is wrong in holding up insurance payment for a lawful expense that the county’s insurance policy now covers.
Four other members of the insurance commission voted to follow the federal law instead of Florida’s 2008 constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. They were right in doing so, since the U.S. Supreme Court trumps anything the state or county tries to pass.
The commission did agree to put it before county commissioners, although we’re not sure what that accomplishes. The commission cannot circumvent the highest court in the land without lawsuits that will cost taxpayers a lot of money. About all the commission could do is decide to go with a policy that allows no spouses, but that hurts too many people just to save money.
Same-sex marriage is an issue that won’t go away. The first hearing in Florida to recognize same-sex marriage from other states will be in Miami in July. Federal judges have been allowing this in many other states and it’s doubtful Florida will be any different.
The insurance policy change should have been announced through county HR as soon as it was known, but otherwise, there was no sleight of hand going on here. It’s just changing times and some people don’t approve. That’s been the case with every major change in law for centuries, from slavery to women voting to civil rights to same-sex marriage.