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Indianapolis City-County Council approves domestic partner benefits

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indianapolis City-County Council has approved an ordinance to provide healthcare benefits to the domestic partners of city employees.

The measure passed Monday by a vote of 20-8, receiving bipartisan support — it now goes to Mayor Greg Ballard for his approval and signature.

The legislation applies to opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples and, according to supporters, would increase the city’s health insurance costs by about $200,000 for an estimated 27 employees, less than 0.4 percent of the estimated $58.2 million spent annually by the city and county on health benefits.

The measure has been met with stiff resistance by conservative advocacy groups, including the American Family Association of Indiana and Indiana Family Action, both of which oppose LGBT rights.

Ballard, who met Monday with organizations opposed to the ordinance, said he has been wavering on whether he would veto the measure.

He said he isn’t concerned about moral implications of offering benefits to gay city employees, but that he would prefer that Indianapolis offer benefits only to same-sex domestic partners because he sees offering them to opposite-sex partners as a “disincentive to marry.”

Gay rights are becoming a pressing issue in Indiana. The Republican-controlled General Assembly will vote in 2013 to approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, both of which already are prohibited by state law.

Cities across the country are moving to adopt similar measures. The Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign estimates that 150 to 200 municipalities and 24 state governments follow guidelines similar to those proposed here.

In Indiana, Bloomington and Carmel already provide benefits for domestic partners.

“It’s increasingly common for cities and municipalities to adopt domestic partner benefits and other practices that reflect the growing recognition that LGBT people are worthy of the same rights and dignity as everyone else,” said Dan Rafter, a spokesman for hte HRC.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Indianapolis measure hinges on Ballard, who has had a sometimes contentious relationship with the Democrat-controlled council.

While the council’s 20 votes in support would be enough to override a mayoral veto, Minority Leader Michael McQuillen said it’s doubtful Republicans who supported the ordinance would do so. He thinks the measure’s bipartisan support, though, makes the odds of a veto less than 50 percent.

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