Salt Lake City
mayor Rocky Anderson wants to extend health benefits
to unmarried partners of gay and straight city employees. He
would prefer to do it with the agreement of the city
council but believes he has the power to do it
administratively on his own. "As long as we're going
to do this, we should demonstrate unity on this issue," he
said Tuesday. "Providing for equality should not
create more division in our community."
Anderson said he will offer the benefits once
the city finishes its research on the plan and he gets
formal word he can do it without city council
approval. The city attorney has yet to issue an opinion.
Some supporters of Utah's new constitutional
amendment banning same-sex marriage contend that the
legislation also bans the extension of benefits
to domestic partners, and Anderson's move could be
challenged. Furthermore, Republican state
representative LaVar Christensen has said he
would be willing to sponsor legislation to stop the city
Anderson believes he can administratively offer
medical and dental benefits to domestic partners but
cannot administratively offer them bereavement
benefits. He plans to pass an executive order offering
medical and dental benefits to domestic partners and seek
council approval for the rest. "What I'm hoping is
that I can structure this under the executive order in
terms of exactly who will be covered under these
benefits and then ask the council to provide bereavement and
dependent leave for that same group," Anderson said.
Anderson said he wants the plan in place before
November, when employees change their benefits
package. "It's a matter of getting it drafted," he said.
Brenda Hancock, director of the city's Human
Resources Department, said a task force is studying
which benefits could be offered to employees'
partners, how to implement the program and the legalities.
The city might also offer partners the chance to buy
auto insurance and legal assistance—benefits
now offered to employees' spouses.
Other cities and employers offering
domestic-partner benefits see 1% to 2% of the
workforce apply. If that holds true in Salt Lake City, it
could cost the city up to $121,000 more a year to
cover domestic partners and their children. Anderson
predicted the cost would be less, however. (AP)