Countersuit filed
in Salt Lake City benefits dispute

Salt Lake City
has filed a countersuit in the dispute over whether the
city can offer health insurance benefits to the domestic
partners of city employees. Last month Mayor Rocky
Anderson signed an executive order granting the
benefits to unmarried couples—straight and gay.
Filed in third district court on Wednesday, the
city's lawsuit contends such benefits are legal under
state law. "The executive order does not affect the
public at large in any way," court documents said. "It
does not create any new form of domestic union, nor does it
create any rights or obligations even remotely equivalent to
the basket of rights and obligations that
automatically attach to marriage under Utah law."
A week ago the Public Employees Health Program,
which manages the city's health plans, filed a lawsuit
asking a judge to decide the issue. PEHP asked for a
decision from Judge Stephen L. Roth by November 1.
Utah law—and its constitution—ban
same-sex marriage as well as the granting of any
type of legal status to relationships other than a
marriage between a man and a woman.
Anderson, who is also an attorney, said his
order addresses only a narrow area of employee
benefits. "It does not even come close to affecting
the full panoply of rights, benefits, and obligations that
together comprise the 'legal effect' of marriage," the
lawsuit said.
The city is blocked from offering any benefits
until a judge rules, city attorney Ed Rutan said.
Anderson has said he expects about 30 city employees
to apply for the benefit and had hoped to begin offering it
during a 30-day open-enrollment period in November.
In a separate case, the Alliance Defense Fund,
an Arizona-based conservative religious group, also
filed a lawsuit contending that Anderson's order
violates state law. (AP)

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