Salt Lake Lawmakers Squabble over Domestic Partner Benefits

September 27, 2005 ( - Salt Lake City lawmakers have decided to challenge an executive order issued by Mayor Rocky Anderson giving same-sex partners of city employees health benefits.

Offended they were not invited to help draft the controversial plan, members of the City Council are devising a competing insurance package to supersede Anderson’s, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

While a majority of council members say they are interested in providing insurance benefits to domestic partners, they also want to include employees’ other significant others, including siblings, parents or friends.

For his part,Anderson opposes the proposal, saying it is a way for the council to avoid the controversial issue of sexual orientation. “This is all being motivated by trying to dodge the issue of equality for those who have a different marital status or different sexual orientation,” Anderson told the Tribune.

Councilwoman Jill Remington Love is behind the council plan, saying it is a way to strengthen all types of households. According to the newspaper, Love askedAnderson twice to delay signing the executive order.

There was time, she noted, becauseAnderson’s plan won’t go into effect until a judge rules on whether domestic-partner benefits are legal – a ruling requested by the city’s insurance administrator, PEHP, which believes the benefits might buck the state’s traditional marriage law (See Utah State Agency Seeks Court Domestic Partner Benefit Decision ).

“Maybe we could work through the kinks, it wouldn’t have to be a battle,” Love recalled telling the mayor, according to the news report. “He was anxious to do an executive order his way.”

Anderson told the Tribune that he did collaborate when he sent a draft copy of the order to the council the same day he publicly announced it and asked for input. No one responded.

Anderson said he supports more people obtaining health insurance, but not the council plan, which he predicted would be costly. Preliminary figures show it won’t be, according to the council.

“It [the council plan] doesn’t add anything toward the movement toward greater equality,” Anderson said, according to the Tribune. “I’m taking the situation now [where spouses of city employees receive insurance] and saying, let’s make it equal [for domestic partners].”