The Colorado Springs, Colo., city council, fulfilling promises made during the campaign leading to the city's April 1 municipal elections, voted Tuesday to withdraw health benefits that had been offered to same-sex partners of city employees. The 8-1 vote means that the benefits will be discontinued effective January 1 and came despite protests from dozens of residents.
Mayor Lionel Rivera had promised in his recent campaign to discontinue the benefits, which the city now provides to six people, a line item that will cost the city about $6,000 this year. Six of the seven council members elected April 1 also had pledged to eliminate the program, joining two holdovers who had opposed the measure earlier. The reversal demonstrates a sharp ideological shift on the council from its 5-4 approval of the benefits in December.
Rivera dismissed arguments that Colorado Springs should fall in line with an increasing number of private companies that offer benefits to same-sex couples. "Those are corporate dollars--they certainly aren't taxpayer dollars," he said.
Councilman Richard Skorman was alone in voting for the benefits to continue. "What message does it send? It tells the people who work for us who happen to be gay and lesbian that we don't care about you," Skorman said. "There is absolutely no reason to bring this forward today except for political promises." Skorman offered to contribute his $6,250 annual salary to pay for the benefits, but other council members treated his offer as a symbolic gesture.
Firefighter Juliet Draper, who had signed up her partner, Pam Jones, for the benefits, said her family will leave Colorado Springs because of the council's action.