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Toledo mayor to introduce benefits bill for Domestic Partners of city workers

Monday, April 30, 2012
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TOLEDO, Ohio — City employees who are partnered but not married could receive health care and other benefits under a proposed measure that would extend benefits to the domestic partners of Toledo’s employees, provided they have certified their status with Toledo’s Domestic Partner Registry.

Mayor Mike Bell’s office last week announced that Bell plans to introduce the legislation at council’s next agenda review meeting on Tuesday, May 1.

“What we’re trying to do is bring our city, from the standpoint of human resources and affirmative-action policies, in line with what’s happening nationally,” Bell said, in a statement.

“We’re not the first train pulling out of the station here; we’re actually in a way trying to catch up with the policies that make companies and cities competitive in the state of Ohio.”

according to information provided by the mayor’s office, other cities in the state, including Cleveland and Columbus, along with Lucas County, the University of Toledo, Owens Corning, and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, reported the Toledo Blade.

Bell said he had not realized Toledo didn’t offer domestic partner benefits until the non-profit advocacy group, EqualityToledo Community Action, approached him about the issue just more than a month ago.

The Domestic Partner Registry, which the previous administration enacted in 2007, allows couples to register their status with the city for a $25 fee but does not extend any benefits. So far, 167 couples from throughout Toledo have signed on to the registry.

“Seeing as we had already started portions of this process, it just makes sense to complete it,” the Bell said.

EqualityToledo Community Action drafted the legislation with the help of the University of Toledo college of law, according to organization president David Mann said. Having such a law would ensure equal treatment for all employees, he said.

“We really think that ultimately this is a matter of fairness,” Mann said. “It will also send a message, whether you’re a city employee or not, that the city of Toledo is a fair place to live in.”

The Mayor’s announcement was met with immediate opposition and skepticism from other elected city officials, including City Councilman Rob Ludeman, who was one of two councilmen who had voted against the Domestic Partner Registry.

“A lot of it was my own religious beliefs, but I think I represented a conservative constituency who were opposed to it, gay and straight people,” Ludeman said. “I’m sure there’s going to be vocal folk on both sides. It has nothing to do with liking people or not liking people. It has to do with what is government’s role.”

Bell responded that the legislation has to do with fairness, not religious or moral beliefs.

“When you’re the mayor, you represent everybody,” the mayor said. “Inside the city we have a lot of different lifestyles. All I’m trying to do is be fair to everybody. … I’m trying to adjust our polices to the obvious that’s in front of us right now at this particular time in history.”

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