Spokane Council OKs Partner Benefits

May 9, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Spokane City Council has approved extending benefits to unmarried partners of city employees - if their labor unions want to negotiate for those benefits.

The ordinance, which passed by a 5-2 vote, would allow domestic partners to obtain health-care benefits, city-sponsored life insurance, and pension rights. Employees could take paid leave from work to attend to emergencies or illnesses involving their partners.

To qualify, employees and their partners of the same or opposite sex would have to submit an affidavit declaring their domestic relationship.

During testimony, supporters said extending benefits was a matter of workplace equity. Opponents warned that such steps undermine the institution of marriage and put government in the position of condoning alternative lifestyles.

Currently, only 17 nonunion employees, plus the City Council, qualify for extended benefits, according to the Seattle Times. Still, one estimate put the cost of extended health benefits at $176,000 or more if all city unions get it included in their contracts, according to the report.