Anderson said measure approved by council was intended to avoid issue of marital status equality for same-sex couples
SALT LAKE CITY Mayor Rocky Anderson on Tuesday vetoed an extended benefits plan approved by the City Council that would have offered health insurance and other benefits to designated adults including relatives and roommates with a documented financial dependency on city employees.
“The council’s plan creates a new type of benefit that is unprecedented among public or private sector employers,” Anderson said in a statement.
“There can be no justification for treating employees’ roommates or housemates the same as employees’ spouses or domestic partners, except to avoid the issue of marital status equality, especially as it concerns gay and lesbian employees.”
The City Council adopted the “adult designee” plan this month. To qualify, the designee would have to have lived with the employee for at least a year, and the two would have to be financially connected.
In September, Anderson extended health care and related benefits to the same-sex and unmarried heterosexual partners of city employees by executive order.
The executive order, which the mayor intended to be effective immediately, has been challenged in 3rd District Court. At issue is whether Anderson’s order violates state laws that ban gay marriage or any legal equivalent recognition of marriage for same-sex couples. A ruling is pending.
Anderson said the goal of the executive order was to provide parity between employees with spouses and employees that have spousal-like relationships.
“It extends an existing benefit to additional employees based on considerations of fairness and, in doing so, follows the example of over 8,000 public and private sector employers nationwide,” Anderson said.
The city estimated 30 of its 2,600 employees would sign up for the domestic partner option, costing about $113,000 a year.
The council’s plan was adopted unanimously. Council member Carlton Christensen said the council has several options, ranging from taking no action to overriding the mayor’s veto with a super majority, or five of seven votes.
“It’s a tough and difficult situation,” Christensen said. “It affects a very minor group of employees. If we’re going to do this we need to be as fair and equitable as possible.”
Anderson contends that the timing of the council’s plan seems designed to interfere with the opportunity to obtain a legal decision on benefits equality because it would make the executive order and the court case moot.
Christensen said that was not the intention of the council.
He said council member Jill Love had been working on the plan since last summer but the council wasn’t ready to go forward by the time the mayor issued his order.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, February 24, 2006.