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San Antonio approves domestic partner benefits

Image by: Matt Mahurin
Image by: Matt Mahurin

San Antonio’s City Council extended health benefits to city employees’ domestic partners Thursday night with a 7-4 vote, ending weeks of debate at City Hall and prompting promises of revenge from opponents.

As the San Antonio Current reported, the fight over a $300,000 measure that would extend benefits to city workers in same-sex relationships came to dominate the conversation over the city’s $2.2 billion budget.

As the Current reported, opponents shifted quickly into talk of challenging the measure:

Local Attorney Allan Parker with the conservative Justice Foundation even made an appearance Thursday, making veiled threats of possible legal action, claiming, essentially, that recognizing gay domestic partnerships would put the city out of line with the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The debate galvanized opposition from religious leaders, including a Christian pastor network called Voices for Marriage, with demonstrations outside City Hall in recent weeks, complaining about a threat to traditional family values.

According to Q San Antonio, the San Antonio Family Association’s Mike Knupke said Thursday that the recent debate had “awakened the sleeping Christian giant.”

As the TV station KENS Opponents are also worried about oversight.">reported, opponents of the measure on the council focused on nuts-and-bots questions about implementing it, while activists were gearing up to challenge its supporters:

“I don’t believe we really know what the real financial impact is to the city with this policy,” said District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan. “And I suspect it will be much more than $300,000 a year.”

Opponents are also worried about oversight.

“What constitutes a break up?” asked District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules. “How do we challenge an employee if we suspect they are abusing the system?”

After the budget passed, some religious leaders vowed to vote out council members who voted in favor of extending benefits to domestic partners of city workers.

Mayor Julian Castro supported the benefits, calling the opposition’s arguments “a smokescreen for their dislike of gays and lesbians.”

Castro has said San Antonio needs the measure to stay competitive with other cities — Austin, Dallas, El Paso and Fort Worth already extend benefits to domestic partners.

But similar measures have become battlegrounds even after they’ve passed, particularly in El Paso, where one pastor is being investigated for leading petition drives for recall elections on city officials from inside his church.

In Michigan Thursday, our sister site reported that the Michigan State House approved a bill banning benefits from being extended public employees’ domestic partners.

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