Under the banner of "fairness," American corporations are beginning to offer homosexual couples the same health benefits they offer married couples. Shedding its button-down, pro-family image, IBM has become the largest American company to grant so-called "domestic partner benefits"--much to the dismay of some of its Christian employees.
Beginning January 1 of this year, unmarried IBM employees can have their same-sex lovers designated as "domestic partners" in order to receive health care benefits. They merely need to claim in a notarized affidavit that they are "emotionally and financially in an interdependent committed relationship."
The decision has inspired some protest. WORLD interviewed a former IBM employee and six more who currently work at IBM's Austin, Texas, plant--one of the corporation's largest--and are concerned about their company's promotion of a lifestyle that is unbiblical and, in Texas, illegal. (Texas is one of several states that still have a statute making it a crime to engage in homosexual acts.)
"IBM does not hire drug dealers. It discriminates against liars and cheats. Why not homosexuals? It's immoral and illegal. America has lost a significant restraining factor against evil when the Apples, IBMs, and other major corporations of the country extend their benefits to promote activities that God abhors," said Scott Reichmann, a 12-year IBM employee.
Employee Mike Maloney sent an open letter to executives criticizing their policy and threatening to organize a boycott of IBM products. When Mr. Maloney's letter made it to a local computer bulletin board, he was confronted by his boss, who sent him home for two days so that he could consider whether to accept a company buyout. Mr. Maloney decided to stay.
Andy Rawson, a 19-year employee, was told by a local human resources manager that "our religious views should have no bearing on what we do at work."
Mark Einkauf had a similar experience in 1995 when he crafted a memo rebutting IBM's arguments in favor of domestic-partner benefits. His position statement passed through company e-mail channels and gathered scores of signatures from Christians at IBM facilities across the nation. But Mr. Einkauf was scolded by his boss for "inappropriate use of corporate facilities."
IBM spokeswoman Melinda McMullen said, "We are not promoting or endorsing anyone's behavior. We are only refusing to discriminate." But Austin IBMers pointed out that the company has instituted mandatory "diversity" training and endorse the dissemination of gay-friendly literature and posters during Gay Pride month.
Luis Aredondo, handpicked to attend a "diversity roundtable" discussion led by IBM executive John Egan, spoke out against IBM's new homosexualist policies. According to Mr. Aredondo, Mr. Egan's advice was: "Leave your religious ideas at the front door when you come to work."
"If Jesus is the center of my life," Mr. Aredondo said, "I am not going to tell him, 'Sorry, you have to stay outside.' Apparently, it's okay to have a booth and to hand out gay and lesbian literature at a company-sponsored event, but I am supposed to leave Christ at the door."
Company spokesman Ms. McMullen added that the new measures are "simply an extension of an IBM policy dating back to the 1970s which has included sexual orientation along with race, disability, etc." When asked about the perception that IBM is condoning an activity that is illegal in Texas, Ms. McMullen offered the standard line, "Sexual orientation is not the same thing as behavior."
Two years ago, Austin's liberal city council voted to extend domestic-partner benefits to any unmarried city employee, but 62 percent of Austin's voters overturned that decision via referendum. Rebuffed at the ballot box in Austin and elsewhere, the homosexual lobby is nevertheless winning the cultural war in the corporate boardrooms. IBM, the nation's fourth largest company, is its biggest prize yet.
Mr. Einkauf, who left IBM last year, understands what is at stake in IBM's domestic-partner decision: "IBM is a national corporate leader; others will follow and use the excuse, 'Well, IBM did it, so can we.'"
-- Bob Davis is an environmental consultant and former reporter.