This year, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson is hoping that a Democratic majority will help her pass a proposal to extend health benefits and other privileges to county workers’ unmarried partners, relatives and other adult designees who share their financial obligations.
Wilson first introduced the proposal in 2005, the same year that then-Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson issued a similar executive order for city employees. Although Anderson wanted to limit the benefits to employees’ unmarried sexual partners, the City Council passed an ordinance extending the health and dental benefits to a live-in parent, sibling or roommate less than a year later. Wilson modeled her own proposal upon Salt Lake City’s.
In 2005, the Salt Lake County Council shot down Wilson’s measure in a 5-4 vote along Republican-Democrat party lines. Last year, Wilson also expanded her proposal to include financial dependents other than domestic partners, but the Republican-dominated Council again voted it down. Instead, Council Republicans put forth a plan to let non-spouses buy into the county health plan out of pocket.
This year, however, Wilson’s proposal faces a Democratic majority in the Council after last year’s election. As Council Democrats have unanimously supported the proposal in the past, they will likely do so again, despite Republican misgivings that the proposal may threaten marriage.
“I don’t think it is going to be the end of the world, but I just don’t think it is good policy,” Republican Councilman David Wilde told the Salt Lake Tribune. “As I define family, it is not family-friendly.”
Wilson countered that her proposal was “a fair benefit” to employees’ dependants who might be otherwise uninsured.
The Salt Lake Tribune estimates that the proposal will cost Salt Lake County approximately $300,000 if it is enacted.
This legislative session, a similar executive order endorsed by local gay-rights group Equality Utah is asking Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. to extend health care benefits to the domestic partners of all state employees. Last week, Huntsman made headlines by publicly stating that he supports civil unions.