Maybe I Underestimated Rich Fitzgerald on LGBTQ Issues

I’ve been disappointed with Rich Fitzgerald. He’s not especially progressive and his antics with Chelsa Wagner are exasperating. Worst of all, he made the decision to strip County employees of their domestic partner benefits after the Supreme Court decision recognizing marriage equality – a truly terrible and regressive policy decision. It one of the single worst policy decisions in the past decade.  He’s tepid on environmental issues and pretty much the penultimate moderate Democrat holding office in this region.

Granted, my history with Chief Executives has been somewhat strained at best. And I’ve learned – over and over – that I am not supposed to criticize, constructively or otherwise, Democrats with long memories. Still … bad policy is bad policy.

But today I had to stop and rethink that when Fitz sent a mailer to us about the election. To us – to Laura Dunhoff and Susan Kerr. It was small and almost overwhelmed by the large glossy mailers – two each – from pretty much every other candidate. Stacks of mailers, most of which are now neatly stacked in our recycling bin. Well, we used a few to scrape up … never mind.

But Fitz sent one small folder piece of paper to both of us – environmental responsibility and LGBTQ cultural competency in one fell swoop.

Rich Fitzgerald gay

In 2014, I wrote the following about another candidate for office who took a similar approach.

This is how you show your respect for LGBTQ families – you put some time and energy into the “little things” that convey your grasp of how just how hard those “little things” can be when they accumulate day after day after day.

Now I realize that this mailer came from the campaign, not the County. But it does stand out. It caught my eye and I opened the mailer simply because of the way it was addressed. They respected my family so I would respectfully read the content.

Then I recycled it.

I sincerely hope Mr. Fitzgerald will revisit domestic partner benefits for same-sex and opposite sex employees, as well as expanding employee health coverage to include transgender health needs. The issue will rear its head the next time there’s a possibility of consolidating jobs with the City simply because the City has maintained those benefits for nearly twenty years. So even for pragmatic reasons to reduce the obstacles to future joint efforts, it is worth a reconsideration. It is ultimately about fairness, though and I have hope Mr. Fitzgerald will treat employees with the same fairness he treats people on his campaign mailing list.

We have policy disagreements, but we should remember that we are on the same side – moving heaven and earth to create a better region for vulnerable people, including the LGBTQ folks.

You can read a more in-depth explanation of the domestic partner benefits issue here.


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