Last November, voters in El Paso, Texas voters approved a referendum that denied health benefits to unmarried partners of city employees. The referendum also had the (unintended) effect of stripping benefits from up to 10,000 retired civil servants—including policemen and firefighters—as well as elected officials.
The city council voted last night to restore those benefits, reports the El Paso Times.
The council split 4-4. Mayor John Cook, who proposed the ordinance restoring benefits, broke the tie in favor of it despite a ballot initiative in November ending them.
City Reps. Beto O'Rourke and Rachel Quintana, who will leave the council in two weeks, voted in favor of restoring the benefits. Quintana's replacement, Michiel Noe, on Tuesday said he would not have voted the way she did.
"Although I think everyone should have benefits, I would have respected the will of the voters," Noe said. "Now, if the courts had decided that was illegal, then I would have voted according to what the ruling said. But they said that the vote was legal, so again I would respect the will of the voters."
Noe was referring to a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo in which he upheld the voter-approved initiative. He wrote that the ordinance did not single out any group such as gay partners of city employees. Montalvo hinted that if the initiative had excluded just domestic partners, it might run against equal-protection assurances in the Constitution.
The controversy began in 2009 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," reported the Wall Street Journal. "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."
The anti-gay evangelical pastor who spearheaded the referendum now says he will recall the council members who supported the change, reports FOX 14.
Reap, sow, etc..