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Domestic Partner Benefits Rejected for Indianapolis City Employees

City-County Council Committee Votes 5-3 to Kill Proposed Ordinance

I'm for FAIRNESS are you?
Buttons worn by
over 200 supporters at the hearing Tuesday evening.
[Indianapolis, IN] A plan to extend health insurance benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of Indianapolis city employees was turned down by the Indianapolis City-County Council Rules and Public Policy Committee on July 23, 2002. The committee voted 5 - 3 to not recommend passage of the ordinance and to table the ordinance, effectively killing the proposal.

The proposal, sponsored by City-County Councilor Karen Celestino Horseman and co-sponsored by six other council members, would have allowed partners of city employees and their families to participate in coverage now offered to the families of married city workers.

Before the vote, Councilor Horseman urged the committee to support the plan -- saying that it would send a message about how the city feels about its workers. "We would not only show that we welcome all those in pursuit of the American dream but, more importantly, we would show that we value all city employees."

Those voting for the Domestic Partner Benefits ordinance were Democratic Councilors Rozelle Boyd, Horseman, and Frank Short. Those voting against the ordinance were Republican Councilors Philip Borst, Beulah Coughenour, William Dowden, Robert Massie, and Beurt SerVass.

Stating that extension of such benefits is ethically and economically sound, an ad hoc leadership group of over 15 organizations worked with Councilor Horseman in promoting the proposed ordinance and provided testimony at the hearing. Participating groups included the National Organization for Woman, Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA), Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, the Gender Fairness Coalition of Indiana, the Indiana Stonewall Democrats, and the Human Rights Campaign.

"All city employees are tax-paying citizens and equal in every respect," said Bryan and Lori Sirtosky of INTRAA. THey noted it is fundamentally unfair that certain benefits are extended only to some employees while the responsibilities of employment, including state and local income taxes, are the same.

Some council members had objections to the ordinance and pointed out that the cash-strapped city government can't afford the tens of thousands of dollars that the ordinance would cost. However, the City estimated that the annual cost would have been only $44,000.

Enactment of the ordinance would have also carried symbolic importance.

"The ordinance would have been a pronouncement by out civic leaders that the climate here is enlightened and tolerant," said Douglas Meagher, a representative of Indiana Stonewall Democrats.

"True political conservatives should have lined up enthusiastically behind the ordinance because it would have provided what they value most: personal freedom; the liberty to live life without the interference ad judgment of others and with the same enjoyment of rights and privileges as any other citizen," he said.

If the ordinance had been enacted, Indianapolis would have become the second Indiana city to offer benefits to employees. Bloomington has provided such benefits since 1997. More than 130 state and local government agencies and nearly 4,000 private companies across the nation provide such benefits -- including more than 140 of the Fortune 500 firms.

Advocates for the new benefits gave a standing ovation to Horseman and other backers of the plan at the end of the meeting.

"You may have lost a battle, but your war still remains," Democratic Councilwoman Karen Celestino Horseman told a room that at is peak was crowded with about 200 observers.

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