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Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2001

Domestic partner benefits pulled

Sedgwick County Commission says pulse of community was against policy

October 4, 2001

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— Saying the community was against it, Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday unanimously ended a new policy that extended health insurance benefits to unmarried domestic partners.

"Elected officials have to go with the pulse of the community," Commissioner Carolyn McGinn said.

Commissioner Ben Sciortino said some people were concerned the policy would diminish the sanctity of marriage and send the wrong message to young people.

County Manager William Buchanan decided to offer employees the option of extending their health coverage to gay or straight partners in a move to keep the county competitive in recruiting and retaining the best employees possible.

Commissioners put the item on Wednesday's agenda after receiving numerous phone calls and e-mails from constituents who say the policy gives official sanction to sinful unions.

Employees were told of their option to cover domestic partners in a packet of materials outlining insurance plans.

Pastor Shelley Hamilton of First Metropolitan Community Church told KFDI radio that she supported extending the benefits to domestic partners. She said the community's reaction to it was "homophobic."

At the same time, Terry Fox of Immanuel Baptist Church urged people this week to call the county commissioners to speak against the policy.

Kansas does not allow benefits to same-sex couples, and the subject has not been broached in recent years, said Kyle Wendt, benefits administrator with the Kansas Health Care Commission.

The number of U.S. employers offering or planning to offer health insurance benefits to same-sex partners increased by 20 percent in the last year to 4,284, according to a study by the nation's largest gay and lesbian organization.

At least 712 employers added the benefits from August 2000 through August 2001, according to a "State of the Workplace" study by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington.

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