The Virginia General Assembly makes for strange bedfellows.
Imagine members of the conservative Family Foundation discovering their usual Republican allies in bed with a pro-business bill that also happens to be pro-gay.
Imagine the bigger surprise when the Family Foundation finds itself waking up next to the likes of gay-rights group Equality Virginia.
Both unlikely scenarios have come to pass with a state Senate bill wending its way through the statehouse. It aims to allow businesses to expand life insurance offerings to nontraditional family members, which is currently against state regulations.
The bill is similar to legislation passed in 2006 that allowed private companies to extend health insurance coverage beyond the traditional nuclear family.
“Virginia is one of only two states that do not allow [private] employers, under group life insurance, to allow their employees to have … their mother-in-laws or others that live with them also — to be insured for life insurance,” says Ben Lacy, an attorney representing Met Life, one of the national insurance companies supporting the bill.
By others, Lacy says, one might replace “mother-in-law” with “gay domestic partner.” Virginia's current law, as some insurers see it, is an unnecessary and meddling legal restriction on their industry and their customers.
And it's a circumstance in the life insurance business that's almost exclusive to Virginia, Lacy says, which makes some businesses hesitant to relocate here.
The Family Foundation isn't ready to lie down on the bill.
“We see it as really an attempted end run around the marriage amendment,” says Chris Freund, spokesman for the foundation, noting the organization's opposition to a bill passed in 2005 allowing similar expanded access to health benefits.
“We warned at that time that this is incremental,” Freund says. “Eventually you're going to see this slippery slope until there's no benefits left for the marriage amendment to protect. That's ultimately the goal.”