Indianapolis City-County Council OKs Domestic Partner Benefits Law
INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- The City-County Council on Monday passed an ordinance passed with a 20-8 vote that approved a proposal with bipartisan support to provide health-care benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. The measure has been sent to Mayor Greg Ballard for his approval and signature.
The legislation applies to opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples and according to supporters, if approved,it would increase the city’s health insurance costs by about $200,000 for an estimated 27 employees. That’s less than 0.4 percent of the roughly $58.2 million spent annually by the city and county on health benefits.
The measure has been met with stiff resistance by conservative advocacy groups such as the American Family Association of Indiana and Indiana Family Action, which both oppose LGBT equality rights.
The mayor, who met Monday with organizations opposed to the ordinance, said he has been wavering on whether he would veto the measure. He said he isn’t concerned about moral implications of offering benefits to gay city employees. He would prefer that Indianapolis offer benefits only to same-sex domestic partners because he sees offering them to opposite-sex partners as a “disincentive to marry.”
Gay rights are becoming a pressing issue in Indiana. The Republican-controlled General Assembly will vote in 2013 to approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, both of which already are prohibited by state law.
Cities across the country are moving to adopt similar measures. The Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign estimates that 150 to 200 municipalities and 24 state governments follow guidelines similar to those proposed here. In Indiana, Bloomington and Carmel provide benefits for domestic partners.
Dan Rafter, a spokesman for HRC said Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland; Louisville, Ky.; Madison, Wis.; and Milwaukee offer such benefits.
“It’s increasingly common for cities and municipalities to adopt domestic partner benefits and other practices that reflect the growing recognition that LGBT people are worthy of the same rights and dignity as everyone else,” Rafter said.
The Indianapolis Star notes that the measure hinges on Mayor Ballard, who has had a sometimes-contentious relationship with the Democrat-controlled council. While the council’s 20 votes in support would be enough to override a mayoral veto, Minority Leader Michael McQuillen said it’s doubtful Republicans who supported the ordinance would do so. He thinks the measure’s bipartisan support, though, makes the odds of a veto less than 50 percent.
At Monday’s meeting, several Republican members of the council cited fiscal and moral implications in voting against the ordinance. Councilman Jeff Cardwell pointed out the mayor had just told the council of a $65 million budget gap in 2013 — which does not include the domestic health benefits.
Republican Aaron Freeman said he is pro family and pro marriage, and he is deeply concerned by the message Indianapolis sends to the rest of the country by passing the ordinance.
“This proposal sets a very bad precedent for me, and it sends a very different message than what I would want to send,” he said.
But the 15 Democrats and five Republicans who voted for the measure say Indianapolis stands to benefit from economic development by taking a progressive stance. And regardless of the bigger picture, they said employees should be treated fairly. ~ The Indianapolis Star
The private sector has led changing attitudes on the issue. Thousands of employers and 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits. Those include drug maker Lilly, engine maker Cummins and health benefits company WellPoint. Lilly is among companies that have asked the city to approve the ordinance.