In May, New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, fulfilling a campaign promise, proposed what would be America’s most sweeping domestic partnership benefits for the unmarried companions, whether heterosexual or homosexual, of New York City’s municipal employees or of anyone taking advantage of city services like public housing. Domestic partners would henceforth be entitled to benefits ranging from health insurance to the right to inherit the lease of a rent-controlled apartment.
At first glance, such a move may appear enlightened and compassionate: in a world where love seems in short supply, why not honor and recognize it wherever it flourishes? But what looks like compassion for individuals has deleterious effects for society as a whole. The mayor’s measure is but the latest victory in the long campaign to make traditional marriage only one kind of family, no more valuable than an array of alternative family structures only one lifestyle choice out of a smorgasbord of equally valid options.
But for public policy, the traditional family is now demonstrably superior for raising children and forming citizens who can finish school, find jobs, obey the laws, stay married, and bring into the world yet another generation of self-governing Americans. Society has every interest, therefore, in promoting the formation of such families and strengthening them in every possible way. That’s why certain privileges have always applied to traditional spouses alone. Extending those privileges to unmarried domestic partners, regardless of sex, removes the unique status that society has hitherto rightly striven to perpetuate.
In his State of the City speech this year, the mayor acknowledged that single parent families were very far from ideal for raising sturdy children and that urban America’s epidemic of illegitimacy was a scourge. But it’s hard to see how the mayor can argue against illegitimacy if by his domestic partnership proposal he has in effect legitimated it.That’s the moral cost of this proposal, but it also has a fiscal cost. New York City already provides its employees with benefits well over twice as costly as in other big cities. This proposal will only bloat the cost of those benefits further—benefits that accompany the employee right up to his death and indeed are immortal. For as we learn from the mayor’s new proposal they include, for city employees, their families, and now their domestic partners, free burial in Canarsie cemetery.