Question: On Jan. 1, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusetts began offering health-care coverage to the "domestic partners" of its employees. Unmarried partners in homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships (and their children) will qualify for the coverage. Is this a mistake, or an example all companies should follow?

Bonnie Erbe: Blue Cross & Blue Shield's move probably is simultaneously exemplary and mistaken. Nonetheless, it is a gutsy move, sure to draw praise from the left and criticism from the right.

On the exemplary side, Blue Cross' move pushes society one step closer to the day when discrimination against homosexuals ends. Gays and lesbians are the one remaining segment of society it is still politically correct to discriminate against. While I, like many Americans, harbor doubts about the propriety of homosexuality, I am firm in my conviction that discrimination in any form is wrong.

On the mistaken side, this is a policy that beckons fraud. If domestic partners are covered, who qualifies? Blue Cross says it will require employees to sign affidavits avowing they have lived with the domestic partner for at least six months. But it's easy to lie, and people in tough economic situations will be tempted to do so. Then there's also the issue of offering health insurance to live-in heterosexual couples. If they want the benefits of marriage, they should get married. Worst of all, they shouldn't be tempted, insurance in tow, to produce children out of wedlock. My fear is this policy might produce precisely that result.

Betsy Hart: First, my colleague must be challenged on two points. It's hardly politically correct to discriminate against gays. After all, gay men are one of the wealthiest demographic groups in America - so they are hardly shut out of the marketplace. And compare the sympathetic treatment the news and entertainment media gives the most radical gay activists to the ridicule conservative Christians receive from the same outlets.

Second, gays can receive medical coverage for their children right now. The gay who has primary custody (as one legally does in almost all gay "partnerships") can apply for and receive family insurance as a single parent, just like millions of single heterosexual parents do every day.

So with these two myths clarified, let's get down to brass tacks. For Blue Cross & Blue Shield to insure "domestic partners" is a dumb idea. As my colleague notes, it will increase fraud and abuse in any system it's tried. With skyrocketing medical costs, is this something to encourage? But more than that, it undermines the traditional family as the building block of any stable society. This policy encourages gay "unions," and thus children of such "partnerships" (can anyone argue that this is a healthy trend?)

But it is likely to have its greatest impact on heterosexual couples. If "domestic partnerships" and marriage are equaled, which will happen as more and more companies and municipalities mimic Blue Cross & Blue Shield, then where is the sanctity, the permanence, the reverence for the special institution of marriage? In addition, this sends the message to children that they are no more secure if their parents are married than if they are just living together, for marriage means nothing permanent anyway.