City council members debate domestic partner benefits

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) – The Bell Administration says 21 states and 200 local governments provide domestic partner benefits, but council is divided on the issue.

Toledo Fire Department Battalion Chief Karen Marquardt told a council committee that she wants equality.  The 16 year TFD veteran said she's been in a same sex relationship for six years:

"I could fly to Las Vegas tonight and meet a man and get married by an Elvis impersonator in a drive thru wedding chapel, come home apply and receive benefits for my new husband. I can legally get benefits for someone who I have only known for a few hours but I am not able to get the benefits for someone whom I have devoted my entire life to."

The legislation would extend health care, dental, and life insurance benefits to same sex and opposite sex partners of city employees.

"From the standpoint of being fair to people who are working inside your system we believe that legislation is highly appropriate," said Mayor Mike Bell.

However, Councilman Rob Ludeman said this should have come up during negotiations with unions, and councilman George Sarantou has additional concerns.

"What do you do if domestic partners break up and there are several children, minors, involved and let's say some of those minors, or are all of them going to continue on the city plan? Even though the domestic couple broke up and we're going to go with the person that is still working for the city?" Sarantou said.

The administration said the additional cost to the city for extending benefits to domestic partners is $205,000 dollars per year. Councilman Steve Steel doesn't think money worries should override equality:

"We don't know how many of our single employees might get married, how many are already married that don't have their spouse under coverage but under circumstances might have to put their spouse under coverage. There is always fluidity in what kind of coverage is offered to each individual employee."

There is no word yet on which way council is leaning, but it could vote on it next Tuesday.

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