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San Antonio Votes 7-4 to Extend Domestic Partnership Benefits for City Employees

by: RBearSAT

Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 04:41 PM CDT

(Great news from San Antonio. - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)

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.

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3 Questions: (0.00 / 0)
Hmmm... 1) Do homeowners want to continue paying higher property taxes to provide free health care for the uninsured?  "The cost of extending benefits to domestic partners... is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the city's budget".  2) Should government enforce the views of a particular religious group?  Pastor Gerald Ripley: "We believe marriage is a legally binding relationship between one man and one woman"... "a vote for domestic partner benefits is a vote against upholding the institution of marriage".  3)  Is a defined  "Relationship Orientation" a requirement for citizenship?   Mayor Julian Castro: "There are not going to be any second class citizens in San Antonio."  

Support for marriage isn't a religious issue (0.00 / 0)
or at least it shouldn't be, regardless of what some bigoted pastors may have to say about it.

Whether solemnized by a church, a ship captain, or a justice of the peace, marriages are good for society. Things work better for adults when there is a life partner who is sworn to support you in sickness and in health.  Things work much better for children when there are two parents in the house. The idea that marriage is just "a piece of paper" or a relic of a more puritanical age is extremely destructive.

For those reasons, and not as an imposition of any religious viewpoint, government does what it can to support marriage. It provides tax benefits for married couples. It provides legal rights for spouses. It lends a hand towards strengthening a basic family unit.

I hope, and expect, to see the day when government does as much to strengthen families headed by two men, or by two women, as it does to strengthen families headed by a man and a woman. Let's work together towards that goal. After all, allowing gays to marry doesn't threated heterosexual marriage -- by including more people, it only strengthens the institution of marriage for everybody.

But domestic partnership benefits do the opposite. By saying "you don't have to be married to be treated as such", it actively discourages marriage. In an age where a majority of minority children are born out of wedlock (and grow up, in poverty, with only one parent around), that's a terrible message to send.

San Antonio blew the call on this one.  

[ Parent ]
an affidavit must be signed and two pieces of documentation (3.00 / 1)
The documentation to prove the existence of a domestic partnership for San Antonio city benefits is fair and reasonable.

BTW, I had to produce a marriage license for my spouse along with copies of our driver's licenses, plus birth certificates for my kids,last year to be audited for eligibility for health benefits from Travis County. I think I should be able to purchase health insurance for anyone living in my house and who is a part of my household as an employee's benefit.  I don't want something for nothing; I want the ability to purchase health insurance for all the documentable members of my household.

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