After a federal judge upheld a ballot initiative repealing domestic partner benefits for El Paso city employees last month, Mayor John Cook has introduced an ordinance to reinstate them.
The council is scheduled to vote next week on Cook’s ordinance, after his motion to introduce it was approved 6-2 on Tuesday. El Paso began offering health benefits to the domestic partners of gay and straight city employees in 2009, before anti-gay groups sponsored the 2010 ballot initiative limiting benefits to current city employees and their legal spouses, and calling on the city to uphold “traditional family values.”
The ballot measure passed by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, and a judge ruled that because it was so vaguely worded, it affects not only domestic partners but also retirees and elected officials. According to the judge’s ruling, more than 100 people, including 19 domestic partners, are slated to lose their benefits Aug. 1. The El Paso Times reports:
Cook said he realizes he’s going up against the will of the voters with the new ordinance. He said he will work in the coming months to persuade the electorate to change its mind. His motion passed 6-2.
“I think it’s important to do what’s right and make it popular instead (of doing) what’s popular and make it right,” he said.
It is far from certain whether the ordinance will pass next week.
Before council can consider an ordinance, it must vote in a previous meeting to introduce it — usually a routine matter. But two city representatives — East-Valley Rep. Eddie Holguin and East-Central Rep. Emma Acosta — voted on Tuesday not to even introduce Cook’s ordinance.
Holguin said that he personally wants to give health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees but that the voters have spoken.
“I feel I have to respect the will of the voters and I have to put my personal opinion aside,” he said.