Today, in a series of votes on the proposed 2012 budget, the San Antonio City Council voted to extend benefits for city employees in domestic partnerships. The final vote on the budget was 8-3 with DP benefits included after an amendment by Councilwoman Elisa Chan (District 9) to exclude the benefits failed 4-7. The benefits, estimated to cost around $300,000 per fiscal year, will go into effect during the city's next enrollment period. According to city staff projections, an estimated 30 employees would possibly take advantage of the benefits. Before city employees can qualify for the benefits, an affidavit must be signed and two pieces of documentation (joint lease or mortgage; joint bank account; joint credit card; jointly paid household expense, such as a utility bill, bearing both names; and documents showing beneficiary status of life insurance or will) as proof of the relationship.Several citizens showed up in council chambers to speak on the matter, both Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Most of the speakers represented the religious community led by Pastor Gerald Ripley and spoke mainly of the religious issues associated with extending the benefits. Those speaking in support of the benefits, primarily from the LGBT community, cited workplace fairness and the need to extend the benefits to remain a competitive employer. Some of the opposition to the benefits threatened council members with a recall referendum if they chose to vote for extending the benefits. However, based on actions in El Paso where a recall effort against two El Paso city council members continues after being temporarily stopped by a judge.
After hearing around 3 hours of public testimony before the budget vote, Councilman Diego Bernal (District 1) submitted the motion to pass the budget with the benefits included at which point Councilwoman Chan offered her amendment motion to exclude the benefits citing financial and verification issues as primary reasons for not supporting the benefits. At that point each council member offered support or opposition regarding the benefits based on a number of things. Most in favor of extending the benefits cited fairness and the need to treat all city employees equitably as key reasons. Those opposed focused mostly on the financial aspects of extending the benefits, especially during tough economic times.
The final votes were 4-7 against Chan's amendment with David Medina (D5), Reed Williams (D8), Elisa Chan (D9) and Carlton Soules (D10) voting for the amendment and Mayor Castro, Diego Bernal (D1), Ivy Taylor (D2), Jennifer Ramos (D3), Rey Saldana (D4), Ray Lopez (D6), and Cris Medina (D7) voting against the amendment. The vote for the budget fell along the same lines, except for Williams who switched to vote for the budget following up on a promise to support his fellow council members should the majority be to extend the benefits.