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Anti-gay measure backfires on El Paso city workers, retirees

Anti-gay measure backfires on El Paso city workers, retirees

EL PASO, Texas — An effort to block same-sex partners of city employees from obtaining health care benefits has back fired, and may strip benefits from thousands of others, including elected officials and partners of retired policemen and firefighters.

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

So 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 elected officials, who aren’t technically city employees, and many former city workers, the city says.

Now, officials are weighing what to do. Last month, the city council decided not to use its authority to repeal what is now a city law.

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.

Union leaders are furious because thousands of their retirees could lose benefits for their heterosexual domestic partners, and elected officials could lose health benefits also, because city politicians are not considered city employees.

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went into effect Jan. 1, and could grow to affect at least 10,00 others over the next several years if not amended or repealed.

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