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Idaho City Considers Domestic Partner Benefits

MOSCOW, Ida. – On Dec. 17 the northern Idaho city of Moscow passed a resolution to give health insurance benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

365Gay.com reported that the city’s mayor, Nancy Chaney, said that no one had asked for the benefits, but that the city’s insurance company, Regence Blue Shield of Idaho, had recently offered coverage for domestic partners of either sex.

The council voted 4-2 in favor of endorsing the resolution. Councilmembers who voted against it said they were not opposed to offering the benefits, but wanted more information before proceeding.  

To be eligible for the benefits, employees must sign documents stating that they currently live with a partner and share financial obligations with him or her.

The council is permitted to revisit the issue in 2009.

The Idaho Values Alliance, a conservative lobby group that promotes religious freedom and “the sanctity of marriage and the family” opposes the measure. On Dec. 21 Bryan Fischer, the group’s executive director, sent a letter to the state Attorney General’s office stating that the measure violates Idaho’s constitution.

In 2006, the state constitution was amended to read: “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

“We believe that the city of Moscow cannot be permitted to flout the plain meaning and intent of the state constitution. If the city is allowed to get away with this indiscretion, the constitution itself will become virtually meaningless,” he wrote.

Fischer also asked the Attorney General’s office to “conduct a formal investigation into the actions of the Moscow city council, to determine whether its policy of granting benefits to domestic partnerships is unlawful and violates the Idaho state constitution.”

Six Republican state senators joined the call for an investigation.

“We were surprised to see the decision regarding the health insurance policy,” Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. “It appears it would conflict with the marriage amendment, or at least the spirit of it.”

Moscow City Attorney Randy Fife, however, told Councilmembers that the measure was legal, because offering insurance benefits is not the same thing as creating domestic partnerships.

With a population under 25,000, the college town of Moscow is one of the smallest cities in the nation to move towards granting domestic partner benefits.

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