Members of the
Austin city council said they want to put to voters a
proposition that would extend health benefits to city
employees' gay or straight partners.
Council member Brewster McCracken called for
repealing an existing prohibition on offering partner
benefits. The proposal for the May 13 ballot would
extend coverage to either a domestic partner or a family
member living with a city employee. "This is about
principle, about correcting something that has been
unfair," McCracken said.
The city council approved offering
domestic-partner benefits in 1993. But the policy
lasted only nine months until a citizen vote overturned it
by a margin of 62% to 38%. A group called Concerned
Texans led the campaign to repeal the benefits,
criticizing them as financially irresponsible and
domestic partnerships as immoral.
Dallas and Travis County are the only two local
governments in Texas to offer domestic-partner
benefits, said Chuck Smith of the advocacy group
Equity Texas. Travis County, which is home to Austin, last
year overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 2, a state
constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Statewide, the proposition passed by a more than
A majority of the city council would have to
approve putting the issue to a citywide vote. Of the
council's seven members, four have said they would
support some sort of coverage for domestic partners and
others. "The city will have better employees if they
know their significant others will be cared for,"
council member Lee Leffingwell said.
Council member Danny Thomas, a mayoral candidate
in the May election, said he would not support the
proposition because the 1994 election settled the
issue. Thomas was the only council member to support the
same-sex marriage ban.
Glen Maxey, a Democratic political consultant,
said he doesn't think a May election on partner
benefits would center on gay rights. "It's not about
gays and lesbians; it's about health insurance," he said.
"It's about, Does the city want to offer the same kind of
insurance package the county does?" (AP)
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