Ruh-oh. The people of El Paso, Texas learn the hard way that anti-gay bigotry is extremely harzardous to your health ... benefits.
A group of conservative Christians set out to block El Paso, Texas, from granting health-care benefits to same-sex partners of city-government employees. But the ballot measure they helped pass in November may also end up stripping benefits from others, including retired policemen and firefighters.The measure was aimed at gay workers and their partners. The wording of the proposal, however, was vague, asking El Paso residents to endorse "traditional family values" by limiting benefits to "city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children."
So when 55% of the voters approved the measure on Election Day, they eliminated coverage for some 200 people who don't fit that description—among them elected officials, who aren't technically city employees, and many former city workers, the city says.
Now, officials are weighing what to do. Last month, the city council decided not to use its authority to repeal what is now a city law. On Tuesday, it agreed to allow the city attorney to come up with ways to amend the ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1. But some members warned that they would vote against any proposal that restores benefits for retirees and not for domestic partners.
The story becomes operatic. "At least 10,000" retirees could lose their benefits, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The pastor, Tom Brown, is threatening to fight officials if they attempt to reinstate the benefits for gay partners. He has proposed another ballot initiative which would strip the city council of its power to amend or rescind voter-approved measures. 1I'm feeling a call from God to get more involved in our government,' Mr. Brown said in an interview.
Meanwhile, past and current employees are clamoring to reinstate the health benefits, and union leaders are preparing a lawsuit against the city. Counting all those city workers who would lose benefits when they retire, the number of affected people could grow to at least 10,000 over several years, said Ron Martin, president of the local police union. "We don't want to get into a holy war with the church," he said. "I just wish they would have left us alone."
The controversy began last year when city officials voted to extend benefits to same- and opposite-sex domestic partners. Only 19 people signed up, adding about $30,000 to the city's $34 million health-care budget. Adds WSJ: "The group that drew up the proposal to overturn the program could not find a lawyer to advise it and so came up with the wording on its own, [Pastor Brown] said."
Reap, sow, etc..