Bigotry backfires: El Paso anti-gay ordinance leaves many without benefits


A federal judge has upheld a voter approved initiative that was intended to block same-sex partners of city employees from obtaining health care benefits, but also stripped away benefits from elected officials and partners of retired policemen and firefighters.

The El Paso city ordinance will stand, ruled Judge Frank Montalvo.

The ballot measure, initiated by a group of conservative Christians aimed at promoting “traditional family values” asked voters last November to make health care benefits available “only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.”

Tom Brown, pastor of the Word of Life Church, organized the ballot measure, but did so without use of an attorney to advise on the verbiage.

When 55% of the voters approved the measure on Election Day, they eliminated coverage for some 200 people who don’t fit that description — among them city council members and other elected officials, who aren’t technically city employees, and many former and retired city workers.

The measure, which targeted gay workers and their partners, went into effect Jan. 1, and could grow to affect at least 10,00 others over the next several years if not amended or repealed.

“This is an example of how direct democracy can have unexpected consequences,” wrote Federal Judge Frank Montalvo, quoting James Madison.

“Any of those people who were excluded from benefits in the ordinance will be excluded from benefits,” said Mayor John Cook after Tuesday’s city council meeting.

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