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 marriage.

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 meetings.

Most said they opposed the measure on religious grounds.

“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.

Councilman 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 enjoy.”

Councilwoman Susie 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.