El Paso, Reno extend domestic partner benefits to city employees

El Paso TX protesters

The cities of El Paso, Texas, and Reno, Nev., voted this week in favor of extending health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, including gay and lesbian couples.

In El Paso, city council members approved the measure in a 7 to 1 vote on Tuesday. Councilman Carl Robinson voted against the measure, saying it would violate the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The action created a stir in the Texas city, with dozens of citizens coming forward to condemn the city’s actions during the public comments portion of city council meetings, saying they opposed the measure on religious grounds. (Pictured, protesters outside El Paso city hall earlier this month.)

Councilwoman Susie Byrd scorned one citizen when he attempted to compare being gay to pedophilia, “One of the gentleman compared homosexuality to pedophilia, and that is just false, and I am absolutely not going to stand for that, ” she said.

Last month, the city came under fire from LGBT rights groups across the country when two men refused to leave a Mexican restaurant because they were kissing. Police officers took no action and told the men they could be cited for their “unlawful behavior.” The police department called the threat of citation as a rookie mistake.

In Reno this week, the council voted to extend benefits to domestic partners of city employees who are registered under the state’s new domestic partnership law, which takes effect October 1.

Reno is the first municipality in Nevada to offer its employees who are registered as domestic partners the same health benefits as people who are married.

Earlier this week, the Nevada secretary of state’s office began accepting domestic partner applications from both gay and straight couples in a month-long pre-registration period to accelerate the process when the new law takes effect.

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