Texas Bill Robs Firemen And Foster Children Of Health Benefits Just to Stick it to Same-Sex Couples
Last year, the El Paso, Texas City Council voted 7-1 to extend city employee health benefits to their domestic partners, including LGBT couples. But while many celebrated the progressive move, the right-wing El Paso Word of Life Church’s Pastor — and self-advertised exorcist — Tom Brown slammed the council for “condoning immorality” and giving “a huge black eye to democracy.” Incensed over the idea of equal treatment, Brown spearheaded a ballot initiative to rescind these benefits, which passed this November by a 55 percent majority.
But, in his eagerness to rob gay and unmarried partners of their health benefits, Brown’s group quickly drew up the bill “wording on its own” because he “could not find a lawyer” to advise. By doing so, Brown’s blow to equal rights also doles a “black eye” to 200 El Paso retirees and public servants who will now lose their health benefits on Jan. 1 too:
[City Attorney Charlie] McNabb said his office had identified 200 people who would lose benefits under the language of the referendum that voters approved by a 55-45 percent ratio.
Only 19 gay and unmarried partners of city employees receive benefits under the ordinance voters rejected last week. But McNabb’s staff found that some retirees and others would lose their benefits because of the wording of the ballot issue.[...]
Some are spouses of deceased city employees and some are retirees with other jobs. Still others work for city agencies such as the Public Service Board and the 911 district but are not legally city employees.
In addition, City Council members have city health benefits but technically are not city employees, McNabb said.
Not only same-sex and unmarried partners, but employees of the 911 call center, retired firefighters, retired policemen, and even foster children will lose health benefits because of Brown’s bigotry. While admitting that he only intended to strip the 19 same-sex couples of their benefits, Brown said he has “no regrets” for doing “what was right,” and that city officials “have to respect the will of the public.”
Unsure if the public actually knew what they voted for, the City Council tried but failed by a 4-3 vote to vacate the so-called “family values” benefits ordinance two weeks after it passed. Brown then proposed another ballot initiative to “strip the city council of its power to amend or rescind voter-approved measures. “I’m feeling a call from God to get more involved in government,” he said.
El Paso’s normally “low-profile” gay community, however, is getting more involved too by organizing “Love” rallies outside of Brown’s church with posters reading “Jesus wouldn’t take away health benefits” and “Love they neighbor gay or straight.” And while Brown thinks “it’s a little late” for their protests, the public may get another chance to right the wrong. On Jan. 1 when the new law takes effect, the City Council “has plans to introduce an amendment to the charter to give voters a clear choice of who should get benefits.”