Group Starts Petition Against Domestic Partner Benefits

POSTED: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 6:31am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 9:29pm

The issue of domestic partner benefits resurfaced this morning in front of El Paso City Hall. This time, a group made good on its promise to start a petition drive against the benefits.

"We're hoping that we get enough petitions and that we'll be able to send this back to the voters of El Paso and let them decide for themselves," said Rev. Tom Brown.

Two thousand signatures from registered voters is what this group is looking for. They only need 1,500 to ask city council to reconsider its decision to extend health benefits to unmarried partners of municipal employees.

"I believe it's wrong from a legal standpoint and I believe it's wrong from an ethical standpoint," said Rev. Brown. "We believe any decision that undermines the traditional family, undermines the traditional marriage is a wrong decision."

The petition reads, "The City of El Paso endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children."

Van English, with Metropolitan Community Church of El Paso, supports the council's decision to extend benefits to domestic partners.

"The words that jump out at me are "traditional family values". And that is a concept that changes and changes and changes over time," said English.

But that's something this group disagrees with. "To say to a boyfriend and a girlfriend who are living together that we're going give you the same benefits that we give a married couple, what we would say to them is why should taxpayers have to commit to those relationships when they don't even want to commit to their own relationship," said Rev. Brown.

But English says it's time for people to stand up and make changes. And he says that's exactly what the city council is doing.

"It's once again for El Paso to be at the forefront and pioneer and be first in something," said English.

Even if the group collects the 1,500 signatures needed the city does not have to reconsider its decision. Under the normal process, the group would then have to go back and collect the signatures again in order to force the issue onto the may 2010 ballot. But, in this case, Mayor John Cook says even if that happens, because this is a budget issue, city council does not have to send the issue to voters.

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