The Missoula County Commission in Missoula, Mont., cleared the way Thursday for people in same-sex relationships to join its employee health insurance plan. The decision applies to unmarried domestic partners, which includes gay, lesbian, and heterosexual couples. "I haven't heard a good argument for why the county shouldn't provide equal benefits for equal work," commissioner Bill Carey said. "We're not going to make everybody happy all the time. But this is a fiscally responsible thing to do." Carey said up to 24 employees are expected to benefit from the plan change.
Carey and commissioner Jean Curtiss voted in favor of the change during an administrative meeting. Commissioner Barbara Evans was not there but previously had said she felt divided on the issue and probably would abstain from any vote.
A county worker must sign an affidavit declaring another person as his or her "domestic partner" for health insurance coverage. The two people must both be over 18 and have lived together for at least 12 months. They must also be engaged in a committed relationship and financially interdependent on each other. Domestic partners cannot be concurrently married to or separated from any other person not related by blood or marriage. The affidavit does not ask about sexual orientation or the gender of the second person.