The City of El Paso, Texas has voted in
favor of extending health insurance benefits to the domestic partners
of city employees, including gay and lesbian couples, local ABC
affiliate KVIA reported.
City council members approved the
measure in a 7 to 1 vote on Tuesday. Councilman Carl Robinson voted
against the measure, saying it would violate the state's ban on gay
Lawmakers tucked the benefits inside
the 2010 budget.
The proposal has created a stir in the
Southwestern city, with dozens of citizens coming forward to condemn
the city's actions during the public comments portion of city council
Most said they opposed the measure on
“If our government starts passing
laws that are against guidelines in the Bible, it starts to
contaminate the spiritual water of our people … What does God say
about homosexuality? He says it is an abomination,” said Barney
Field, servant of El Paso for Jesus, at a meeting two weeks ago.
Tom Brown, the charismatic pastor of
the Word of Life Church, also attended. While Brown says
the opposes the measure because it lacks public approval, he also
delivers an ongoing ministry called Homosexuality: Its
Cause and Cure, which he's
scheduled to deliver at the
Jesus Lighthouse in Port Huron, Michigan in November.
Beto O'Rourke explained his support for the measure in an El
Paso Times guest editorial:
“[M]ore important than human resource and fiscal considerations is
the moral imperative. When it becomes clear what is right, we must
do it. In this case, it is making sure that gay city employees have
access to the same benefits and protections that straight employees
Byrd chided one man when he attempted to compare being gay to
pedophilia: “One of the gentleman compared homosexuality to
pedophilia, and that is just false, and I am absolutely not going to
stand for that.”
Last month, the
city was thrust into the national gay rights debate when two men
refused security guards' request to leave a Mexican fast-food
restaurant because they were kissing. The men sought help from the
police, who backed the guards, saying the men could be cited for
their unlawful behavior. The police department attempted to pass
off the threat of citation as a rookie mistake, and not
discriminatory in nature.
The city estimates
that only a few dozen employees will be affected by the new policy.