TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - After weeks of controversy, Toledo City Council has approved Mayor Bell's version of a plan to extend benefits to registered domestic partners of city employees.
Mayor Mike Bell says it is time that Toledo catches up with other governments in offering domestic partner benefits, but it wasn't a unanimous vote by council.
Last Tuesday, council voted to uphold a mayoral veto, on a measure which included an amendment to require the mayor to re-open contract negotiations with Firefighters Local 92 to include those benefits.
The mayor argued council has no authority to force the mayor to do anything related to contract negotiations, citing separation of powers between the mayor and council.
After upholding the veto, council did not accept a proposed amendment from Rob Ludeman and George Sarantou, to extend domestic partner benefits only to same sex couples, then voted to approve the mayor's plan.
Council then approved a resolution to urge the mayor to re-open contract negotiations with the firefighters union, but the mayor says that resolution carries no weight and is simply council members trying to win over union support.
City council made up its mind on offering benefits to same sex and opposite sex partners of city workers in an 8 to 4 vote, saying Toledo needs to be more competitive with other cities to draw in quality.
"We talk about being fair, such as our affirmative action office and all of that and making sure that we are compliant. But yet there was a portion of our system that we weren't being fair to people. And so I am totally comfortable with the decision that was made today," Mayor Bell said.
Council president Joe McNamara says it won't be a financial strain on the city, since he expects only ten employees will apply for them, affecting just one percent of the city's health care burden.
"Really I think that's why I was supportive of it was the fact that if you are a member of the LGBT community, you shouldn't be treated differently and your family is your family regardless of your sexual preference," McNamara said.
Councilman Tom Waniewski was one of the 4 who voted against it. He says the cost to the city wasn't included in the budget, and is his biggest concern.
"I could go on and on about other personal feelings as it relates to domestic partnership. However, when it comes to the city and representing the city, I have to look, and I have always looked at squeaking the nickels," Waniewski said.
To get the benefits, the employee and partner must share a common residence, have an intimate relationship, share a responsibility for each other's welfare, be 18 years of age or older, and cannot be related to one another by blood.
"And so this thing is not set up to be abused, it's set up to be fair and appropriate to our employees," Bell said.
The employee and partner also have to be enrolled in the city's domestic partner registry. The benefits begin in January.
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