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Kansas City stalls partner benefits, pushes registry

Kansas City stalls partner benefits, pushes registry

The city council in Kansas City, Mo., has delayed a proposal to provide health insurance benefits to unmarried partners of city employees, saying it wants to determine the cost of providing such benefits. The council did introduce ordinances Thursday that would establish a domestic-partner registry and provide sick leave and funeral leave. But the most attractive benefit--health insurance--will wait at least until the city completes a budget review and its negotiations with insurance carriers next spring. "We want to look at it in the context of our overall budget," city manager Wayne Cauthen said. "We need to get more clarity on it." The council had pledged in April to begin a domestic-partner benefit program by May 1, 2004. The measures to establish the registry and provide sick leave and funeral benefits will be considered in committee next week. Cauthen said 157 city employees have expressed interest in the proposed benefits. About 40% of those expressing interest are gay, he said. Among the measures introduced Thursday was a resolution calling for the city clerk to provide a plan within 24 days for creating and maintaining a domestic-partner registry. Dozens of cities have established such registries, which give registered couples some rights, such as the ability to visit their partner in the hospital and to make decisions on a partner's medical treatment in emergencies. Two other ordinances would allow city employees to take sick leave or funeral leave if a partner is sick or dies. While domestic-partner benefit proposals have sparked intense controversy in some cities, the debate in Kansas City has been subdued. City council members have received letters and E-mails from supporters and critics, and there have been a few sparsely attended protests outside City Hall by members of a Kansas City church.

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