Chesterton Tribune

Indianapolis looks at domestic partner benefits

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Health-care benefits would be offered to the domestic partners of Indianapolis city workers under a proposal being pushed in the City-County Council.

The proposal formally introduced to the council and assigned to a committee Monday would offer insurance coverage to both same-sex and heterosexual unmarried couples. A city consultant estimates fewer than 30 of nearly 7,500 eligible workers would apply for the coverage.

A similar proposal was defeated in 2002, but supporters say they believe it will get the votes this time to clear the council, where Democrats hold a 16-13 majority. Some council members, however, have concerns about the additional cost to the city.

Democratic councilman Zach Adamson told WTHR-TV that while money "should be a concern, we're talking about recruiting and retaining a quality workforce that will cost one-half of one percent of all we spend on health care."

City Controller Jeff Spalding estimated the additional benefits could add less than $200,000 to the $58.2 million the city spends a year on health benefits.

A spokesman for Republican Mayor Greg Ballard said the mayor was open to supporting the proposal.

"He wants to make sure that it's worded in a way that would prevent fraud and abuse and wouldn't open the city to lawsuits," spokesman Marc Lotter told The Indianapolis Star. "And, obviously, he wants take a look at the fiscal impact."

The Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay-rights group, estimates similar domestic-partner benefits are provided by 24 state governments 150 to 200 municipalities including Chicago, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

In Indiana, the city of Bloomington and some state universities including Indiana, Purdue and Ball State provide benefits for employees' same-sex partners.

Curt Smith of the conservative Indiana Family Institute strongly opposes the Indianapolis proposal.

"It sends the message that domestic partnerships are the same as marriage and that's not true," Smith said.

Republican councilman Aaron Freeman said he's worried about the additional cost at a time when the city faces a shortfall in funding public safety departments.

"We're $80 million short," Freeman said. "I cannot justify spending dollars for new programs when we don't have enough money to cover what we did this year, next year."

Adamson, a sponsor of the proposal, said it's likely more county employees with opposite-sex partners would take advantage of domestic partner benefits.

"We have to make sure we're not pigeon-holing this issue as just a gay issue," he said. "Heterosexual couples can take advantage of this, if they meet the criteria."



Posted 6/5/2012