City Council To Consider Repealing Voter-Approved Benefits Initiative

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council has instructed city staff to include an item on next week's agenda that would repeal the initiative passed by voters that took away benefits from gay and unmarried partners.

This directive was made after the city found an additional 200 people would lose benefits on top of the 19 domestic partners who already signed up for health insurance. Last year, City Council approved the domestic partners policy, extending health benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

The group, El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values, spearheaded the move to overturn the decision by City Council members.

Nineteen employees received the benefits this year at a cost of less than $30,000 to taxpayers. The special election for this proposition cost about $130,000.

City attorneys spoke at City Council on Tuesday and said the following people would also lose benefits under the initiative passed:

-Elected officials, including council and municipal judges. -PSB employees. -Survivors of dead city retirees. -Foster children of city employees. -Any other child who is not "dependent" under federal tax laws.

The city also is working on putting a non-discriminatory ballot initiative on the May election that would give the voters an opportunity to take a stand against discrimination and would be included in the city charter and would potentially clear up the benefits issue.

Council will take a vote next week on the item when it is included on the agenda. Several members spoke in favor and against what the city was doing.

For now, City Council is still scheduled to ratify the election in a special meeting on Wednesday that would put the approved ballot initiative into effect Jan. 1 and take benefits away from gay and unmarried couples.

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