13 INVESTIGATES: Same Sex Marriage - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Same Sex Marriage

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You've seen the video from other parts of the country. Same sex marriage couples walking down the aisle, taking the plunge. But it remains a divisive issue in the US.

In 2008 - 55% of the US opposed same sex marriage.  Today 50% support it. And it varies widely depending on what side of the political aisle you sit on:

69% of Democrats support same sex marriage.

66% of Republicans oppose it.    

52% of independents support it.

Domestic partners for 12 years, Chris Campanotta and Scott Ford would like to one day get married in Alabama.

Supports same sex marriage, Scott Ford said, "I think today we have evolved like a lot of other people in this issue and it is important that it is called marriage now. I think that term word has such a distinct definition for so many people."

But they face opposition from people like Dr. Joe Godfrey, Executive Director of Alabama Citizens Action Program or ALCAP.

Alabama Citizens Action Program Executive Director, Dr. Joe Godfrey said, "We're not angry with people who have same sex attraction. We're not trying to attack them in any way or be, wish any evil against them. We love them in Christ."

And Birmingham SCLC President Bishop Calvin Woods.

Birmingham SCLC President, Bishop Calvin Woods said, "Representing the gospel that I preach, that the Lord called me to preach, I have to say that I don't feel that it's the right thing for same sex marriage."

According to freedom to marry dot com:

Nine states, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont plus Washington D.C., allow for same sex marriages.

Two, New Mexico and Rhode Island, recognize out of state marriages.

Eight states, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island come just short of marriage and recognize civil unions.

Three, California, Oregon and Nevada, recognize broad domestic partnership which provides state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples, same sex or heterosexual and Wisconsin has a limited domestic partnership, which includes hospital & end of life decisions plus benefits for state government employees.

But is there a financial cost to refusing or allowing same sex marriage? If it's allowed Dr. Godfrey maintains that wedding service businesses that don't want to support same sex marriage will be sued. That's what happened this month to a florist in the state of Washington.

Back here in Alabama, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered activist from Huntsville doesn't want to force others to step to his side of the aisle but maintains his community is being denied basic rights.

GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services Executive Director, James Robinson said, "I'm not coming after anyone. I'm not trying to force anyone to do anything. I'm a citizen of this country and as a citizen, I have the right to everything that every other citizen has, that's just basic."

For Robinson, Campanotta and Ford - that means allowing same sex marriage in Alabama.

Supports Same Sex Marriage, Chris Campanotta said, "As the taxpayer that I am, and Scott is, we should have the same benefits that are afforded to another couple that happen to be together for 12 years. We should have the same thing."

And some are getting those benefits.  The majority - 58% of Fortune 500 companies - provide same sex health insurance benefits to their employees. The only Fortune 500 Company headquartered in Birmingham - Regions - provides them.

So does one of it's rivals - Wells Fargo. A company spokesperson told me, it's following an industry-wide practice. More and more businesses are offering same sex benefits and that Wells Fargo does it to attract good people. It's not a social statement.

But does offering same sex benefits cost more to the employer, employee or other consumers???

According to Cigna - which offers employers the option to provide same sex health benefits, "From a pricing perspective, domestic partners are handled the same way a spouse is within the premium rate calculation. So there is no explicit difference in the way premium rates are determined when this option is selected."

By banning same sex marriage, those in these relationships like Camponetta and Ford do pay more in legal costs: for healthcare decisions and wills - designating who their money is left to; in taxes - not able to take advantage of filing jointly; and if a partner dies, if the legal documentation isn't in place, the remaining partner will be hit with a death tax. Heterosexual couples don't face any of those issues.

Ford said, "I certainly understand and hear those people that say you're cramming it down my throat. I don't think Chris and I feel like we're cramming it down any body's throat, but do I want the same rights, absolutely."

Still those who are against same sex marriage have their reasons.

Godfrey said, "The fact is cultures would cease to exist, if everybody followed that path of same sex attraction, there would eventually be no people left. Sex is required between a man and a woman, is required for procreation."

And though he doesn't support same sex marriage, Bishop Woods said he will not stand for discrimination against the LGBT community.

Bishop Woods said, "I am against gay bashing, it's wrong. I'll stand up for the rights of gays just like I will anybody else. I love them just like I love everybody else."

So could Alabamians ever see same sex marriage in this state? ALCAP's executive director sees it this way.

Dr. Godfrey said, "As our culture continues to influence the way we think, continue to remove our biblical foundation from our society and from our culture, it's going to have, it's going to have an impact and yeah it could happen."

Alabama voters banned same sex marriage in 2006. There is no current legislation to repeal that. However the Supreme Court has heard arguments on the Federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA and on California's Prop 8 - forbidding same sex marriage in California. Their ruling will effect same sex marriage laws across the US. 


Additional content:

We wanted to check with other large Birmingham companies about whether they offered domestic partner benefits. Here's what we found:

Company Same Sex Benefits Offered?

A Southern Company                                                                                       Yes

Alabama Power, Division of Southern Company                                               Yes

Alagasco, an Energen Company                                                                       No

BE&K                                                                                                                No

First Commercial Bank/Synovus Financial                                                       Yes

HealthSouth Corporation                                                                                 Yes

O'Neal Steel                                                                                                     No

Regions Financial Corporation                                                                          Yes

RBC Bank                                                                                                          No

Wells Fargo                                                                                                      Yes

Vulcan Materials Company                                                                    No

Unnamed Private Alabama Company No

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