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Alabama's Liberal Congressman Punts to the Preachers on Same Sex Insurance

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A January 15, gathering of “like minded” forum of suburban democrats in Birmingham Alabama on healthcare reform unintentionally became a point of contention for some local LGBT members that point to potential veins of hypocrisy deep inside the regional reality of politics, signs of conflicts within much of the fundament of proclaimed liberal idealistic thinking.

In truth, one Congressman’s statements exposed what might be seen as a disillusioning and ugly reality of American political life and perhaps the misguided faith in a system that continues to let many of us down.

Among those on a panel of speakers at the meeting of Birmingham’s “Over the Mountain” were Dr. Wally Retan, Dr. Max Michael, Terry Kellog, a VP at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and the liberal, African American Congressman, Artur Davis (D-7th District)

In Birmingham, "over the mountain" is synonymous with suburban, wealthier and whiter than the Mother Ship city in the valley to the north.

According to a number of participants, after a number of questions, discussions and sated commitment to the compassionate ideal of Universal health care for all Americans, a question was posed to Terry Kellog, a VP at Blue Cross Blue Shield or BCBS.

Kellog was asked why BCBS still refuses to offer a product to any of its clients that extends health insurance benefits to the partners or children of the unmarried, primarily same sex couples.


With 3.6 million Alabama customers and 4000 employees, the company is the state’s largest insurer. .

Reportedly, Kellog offered a widely expected litany of economic and business related excuses, noting that Blue Cross in Alabama does not offer benefits to domestic partners, either heterosexual or homosexual, arguing that ultimately, BCBS of Alabama’s customers don’t want to pay the alleged costs for additional coverage.

Despite signs from a number of major insurers that this arguably discriminatory policy is changing, the fact is, that Alabama’s Blue Cross Blue Shield is not alone since a number of large insurers throughout the nation still offer no such extension to domestic partners.

But, as Danny Upton, Executive Director of Equality Alabama, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization later said, the excuse by Blue Cross Blue Shield is unacceptable, considering the fact that 78 percent of the Fortune 100 largest corporations and 49 percent of the Fortune 500 offered health benefits to employee’s domestic partners. Upton says Alabama’s Blue Cross Blue Shield has simply not kept pace with social and corporate trends and as a result, is losing its reputation as a leader, innovator and competitor in the changing Alabama health market.

But then, Alabama’s “liberal” Congressman, Artur Davis concurred with Kellog. adding, much to some of the crowd’s surprise, that the LGBT community should not look to Washington or Montgomery, the state’s capital, for any sort of pro-activity that might affect change at Alabama’s largest insurer.

He also said that discussion of this issue would be driven by the clergy, and in Alabama, that more than likely would mean, outspoken Preachers who do no approve of gay lifestyles.

The day after the “Over the Mountain” Democrat organization meeting, Birmingham blogs were abuzz with reaction. Those sympathetic to local LGBT causes saw the Congressman’s comments as further evidence that leadership is lacking where it pertains to the millions of LGBT Americans. Local activists saw Davis’ apparent acceptance of this apparent Alabama reality as proof that LGBT citizens are still considered second class citizens when it comes to some of the most basic elements of American life.

Davis’ advice to the Alabama LGBT community seemed to say that Washington did not have a say, that in the heart of Dixie, that Preachers had the pull with the congregation, and among this congregations members, were the insurance company decision makers, and that they would in fact, be the sole decision makers on whether or not, gay couples would ever see this sort of benefit offered as a product.

Further, the fact that there is a link between Alabama’s Congressman Davis, and the Democratic Presidential Candidate who has been most enthusiastically touted as an agent of change in Washington.

Congressman Artur Davis is the Alabama state chairman of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for President. To some, Davis’ role as head of Obama’s campaign, begged the question as to whether or not Senator Obama might speak out against, or express disagreement with Davis’ assessment regarding exactly who has more influence over this exclusionary policy, which to some LGBT Alabamians appeared to be a punt by Washington to the preachers.

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www.codylyon.com

Cody Lyon is an Alabama native who is a freelance writer in New York City.
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