Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Eli Lilly Announces Opposition To SJR-7

Proponents of SJR-7 suffered another major blow today when Eli Lilly, one of the state's largest private employers, announced in a letter to House Speaker Pat Bauer it opposes the amendment because it will make the job of recruiting more difficult, and it might place Lilly's domestic partner benefits at risk. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider reports:

Eli Lilly and Co. today became the latest large Indiana employer to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Tony Murphy, Lilly's senior vice president for human resources, sent a letter to House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, and other legislators saying the amendment could hinder Lilly's ability to attract employees and also paint an image of Indiana as an intolerant state.

Murphy said in the letter that Lilly, which employs nearly 16,000 people in Indiana, has offered domestic partner benefits since January 2004. He said the company is concerned that the language of the amendment could put those benefits at risk.

In addition to defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, the amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 7, states that the constitution or any other Indiana law "may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

"As a result of this uncertainty (over what the amendment's impact might be,)" Murphy wrote, "some employees may choose to leave Indiana to work in a state where these benefits are perceived not to be threatened. Given the great lengths Lilly takes to attract and retain top talent from around the world, we oppose any legislation that might impair our ability to offer competitive employee benefits or negatively impact our recruitment and retention."

In addition, Murphy wrote, Lilly is concerned the amendment "sends an unwelcoming signal to current and future employees making Indiana appear intolerant."

During a hearing last week in the House on the proposed amendment, spokesmen for Cummins Inc. and WellPoint both testified that the amendment could hurt their efforts to recruit employees and could also jeopardize domestic-partner benefits. A third firm, Dow AgroSciences, sent a letter voicing similar concerns.

The proposed amendment passed the Indiana General Assembly in 2005, but must pass a second time before going to voters for their approval. The Senate approved the amendment earlier this year, and now it is awaiting action in the House.


Added to earlier opposition from Cummins, Dow AgroSciences and Wellpoint, Lilly's announcement clearly places all the big business players firmly in the camp opposing SJR-7. The real question is whether the position of these heavy hitters will move any of the lawmakers in the House to back off their support of SJR-7. As many as three-quarters of the members of the House may support the amendment based on their past voting record and announced position. Only one Republican, Rep. Jon Elrod (R-Indianapolis), has announced his opposition to the amendment. AI has learned that at least one House Democrat member is miffed at the proponents after being told before last week's hearing by one of their lobbyists there was no business opposition to the amendment. That is clearly not the case as we now know it.

It's now time for officials at Purdue and IU to get off their butts and do the same as these forward-looking companies have done. Officials know their employees' DP benefits are in grave danger if SJR-7 is enacted, but they are more concerned about legislative retaliation against their own budgets than doing what is right. It's time for these folks to say publicly what, up to now, they've only been willing to say in private about SJR-7.

14 comments:

brian-k said...

IU and incoming president Michael McRobbie are keeping their head in the sand on this one. An article in the Bloomington Herald-Times this morning read that "Michael McRobbie, who will take over July 1 as IU president, said the university administration hasn’t taken a position on the amendment. He said attorneys say it won’t affect IU’s domestic-partner benefits policy." However, the IU Faculty Council did issue a statement strongly opposing the admendment.

Jeff Newman said...

I wonder why the big State U's haven't had the nerve on this one? Surely it can't be because funding concerns trump principles...

Anonymous said...

It's a biennial budget year. Certain legislators are well-known for their budgetary threats from session to session.

Those legislators always have good seats to the IU basketball games.

I'm writing all the IU trustees on this one. They ought to be ashamed.

The Lilly news is terrific, though. Why it took them this long to come to this conclusion is beyond me, but better late than never. They only started offering domestic partner benefits three years ago. In that respect, their recruitment experience, with and without the benefits, is fresh and applicable. That message could be even stronger: "We did it three years ago without benefits, and we recruit now with benefits. With is better."

Which is what I think they were trying to say in the letter.

Restores my faith in Lilly. Which is, after all, heavily subsidized in tax relief form all Hoosiers, especially Marion County residents.

Anonymous said...

Lilly needs to be much more of a leader on many issues. They are dead silent as the Peterson kleptocracy runs the city for the benefit of themselves and their cronies as murders and other crime soars out of control. There are a host of urban planning and other ills affecting the city. Lilly is the only one with the clout to stand up and say that things like SJR-7, the Marriott Hotel design, and a depleted police force are not acceptable and that their growth is going elsewhere if things aren't fixed. Because growth is growing elsewhere. Lilly is shrinking locally as they boost R&D in Singapore and elsewhere. They just aren't telling the city why it is no longer an attractive place to do business. The Lilly CEO needs to stand up and be counted.

Anonymous said...

Very good news indeed! What ever happend to seperate Church and State! SJR-7 is just religion creeping it's way in.

Anonymous said...

It was a very nice surprise this morning to see a Star article with something more than he-said, she-said quotes.

We have heard so much on this blog and elsewhere about the Michigan and Ohio amendments, even though those two amendments have very little resemblance to SJR007. But of course, we've heard nothing here about the Oklahoma amendment, which is much more similar (and relevant). Why not?

It is really a shame that Eli Lilly, a science-based organization, would fall for the he-said, she-said game rather than facts and actual research.

Anonymous said...

The Oklahoma amendment should not be held up as a model. Here's what a federal district judge said late last year about the specific language in the Oklahoma amendment that is identical to the second sentence of the Indiana amendment: "This sentence is not a model of clarity." Bishop v. Oklahoma, 447 F.Supp.2d, 1239, 1253 (N.D.Okla. 2006).

So if anyone were looking for any insight into how the courts will construe what "construe" means (as well as the other undefined terms), here's one take on just how "clear and unambiguous" the Indiana language really is.

Anonymous said...

Regardless, 2:53, I find it really interesting that the opponents focus so much on Ohio and Michigan, which have almost no similarity, and have been silent on Oklahoma, which is very similar.

And let's put that quote into context. "Clarity" on what? I bet it wasn't a question of whether private companies can offer DP benefits.

Anonymous said...

What are "DP benefits?" I know it stands for "domestic partners." But who else other than gay people qualify for such things? Unmarried heterosexual couples sure don't qualify. So if you want to talk about "fairness," where's the fairness in that? By all the standards I see on this blog, that is discrimination. Isn't it?

To be honest, shouldn't these things be called "Gay Benefits" or "Gay-Lesbian Benefits?"

kevin said...

3:42,
unmarried heterosexual most certainly do receive domestic partner benefits. They do at my company anyway.

Jeff Newman said...

At IU domestic partner benefits are NOT available to unmarried heterosexual partners, only same-sex. I assume the reason is that marriage is available for one and not the other.

Anonymous said...

DING DING DING

Jeff hits a home run

Anonymous said...

Home run? Sounds more like a pop fly out to me. Jeff and others on this blog talk so much about fairness. But what you just described is a situation where heterosexual couples are required to make a long-term, legal commitment in order to get those benefits. But a gay couple could get those benefits by doing the heterosexual equivalent of moving in together.

If "fairness" is really your concern, then why aren't you also advocating hetero couples should get these benefits?

You're OUT! Next batter, please.

Ellen Andersen said...

Dear anonymous 11:47,

If you want to lead the charge for the position that DP benefits shouldn't be linked to marriage for anyone, be my guest. While you're at it, you might even stop to wonder why we ask corporations in the country to add the cost of health care to their products, when corporations in every other industrialized democracy are freed from this burden.

But in the meantime, I don't recall either AI or any other poster on this blog making the argument that unmarried heterosexual couples shouldn't be eligible for DP benefits. Don't give AI grief for an argument he never made.

And by the way, it took more than moving in together for my partner and I to be eligible to receive DP benefits. In addition to attesting that we had "an exclusive mutual commitment that is the functional equivalent of a marriage" we had to supply the following documentation to "verify our interdependent financial relationship":

a) Joint ownership of residence (home, condo, mobile home) or a lease for a residence identifying both partners as tenants, and

b) Two of the following: joint ownership of a motor vehicle; joint credit account; joint checking
account; or other evidence of joint ownership of a major asset or joint liability of debt.