February 24, 2009 9:05 AM
Health care benefits for same-sex partners gets initial Senate OK
The same-sex partners of state employees are entitled to health care benefits, an initial Colorado Senate vote declared.
Lynn Bartels reports:
Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, called it a fairness and equity issue, not a prelude to gay marriage.
Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, said she did not agree with the comments of her Republican colleagues, including one who quoted the Scriptures and linked homosexuality and murder as sins that should not be allowed by law.
But Spence noted that state workers are facing furloughs and going without raises to help close the budget gap. In light of that, she said, "I don't think this is the time" for a measure that would increase state government's health care costs.
"For gay and lesbian state employees, when is the right time?" Veiga asked.
"There is never going to be a right time to add these benefits for most of your colleagues, and you know that," she said. "If today is not the right time, then you've got to tell me when because equality is equality is equality, regardless of when we do it."
The Senate gave initial approval to Senate Bill 88. Later this week, it will take a final vote on the measure, which defines a domestic partner as "an adult over the age of 18, who is of the same gender as the employee, with whom the employee is in a committed relationship of a least one year with the intent for the relationship to last indefinitely."
Some Republican opponents said granting benefits to same-sex partners would somehow subvert the state's vote disallowing gay marriage.
Others turned to the Bible to buttress their argument:
Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, quoted the Bible during his speech against the bill. He called homosexuality an "offense to God."
"When we create laws that go against biblically what we are supposed to stand for, we are allowing to go forward a sin," Renfroe said. "We are taking sins and making them to be legally OK. That is wrong. I'm not saying this is the only sin out there. We have murder. . . . We don't make laws making murder legal."
Veiga told Renfroe she respected his beliefs but said they were not her beliefs.
"I will stand here today and tell you that God also created me, and the last time I checked, I am who I am," she said.
Meanwhile, Aurora's City Council voted to give health benefits to the domestic partners of any city employee, regardless of sexual orientation.
April M. Washington reports:
The council voted 7-3 to approve a resolution allowing the city to offer health insurance benefits to same- sex couples and heterosexual couples who attest to being in a committed relationship for six months or longer.
City officials said that extending benefits to domestic partners gives the city a competitive advantage when recruiting and hiring top-notch employees.
The passage of the resolution puts Aurora on equal footing with other cities and counties that offer domestic partnership benefits either to same-sex couples or heterosexual couples living together but who are not common law husband and wife.
"This will open the door to bringing in more qualified employees and keeping the ones we have," said Councilwoman Deborah Wallace. "It's not about making a statement for or against anyone's lifestyle."
The right thing to do? A fairness issue? Does granting health insurance to domestic partners get around the state's prohibition of gay marriage? Does the Bible have any place in this debate?