News Column

Pueblo, Colorado Council Pasess Same-sex Benefits

Oct. 10, 2012

Peter Roper

Oct. 10--Pueblo City Council listened to 90 minutes of passionate testimony both for and against Tuesday night before voting 6-1 to allow the city's gay workers to add domestic partners to the city's insurance programs.

The decision came in front of a packed chamber.

Only Council President Chris Kaufman voted against the change, saying he had to stand with voters who have repeatedly said marriage is between a man and a woman.

"This group (gay employees) is not a minority group, this is not about equal rights," he said.

Council members Steve Nawrocki, Leroy Garcia, Chris Nicoll, Sandy Daff, Ami Nawrocki and Eva Montoya voted for the change.

More than a half dozen supporters testified the city needed to add the domestic partner provision as a step of equality for all city workers.

"Family is at the heart of this matter," said Dawn DiPrince. "I ask that all city employees be treated equitably."

Josette Jaramillo, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees local, said it boiled down to not providing the city's gay employees the same benefits as its other married workers.

But opponents charged that council was trying to subvert the will of Pueblo County voters, who voted down a state referendum in 2001 to legalize domestic partnerships.

"You're saying you're smarter than I am, that you seven are smarter than voters are," said local resident Mark Aliff. "You should put it to a vote of the people."

Al Pearson, another resident, said there was no clamor among city employees for the policy change.

"You're being subjected to a lot of hogwash and false theology," he warned council. "Same-sex marriage is ridiculous."

Both Nicoll and Nawrocki spoke before voting, saying they were religious, too, but still supported the policy change.

"I consider it to be our job to take care of city employees," Nicoll said. "We are like a family."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

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