Sandy to Consider Adult Designee Program?

Traction for a program that would allow city employees to ensure their unmarried partners is coming from an unexpected place: Sandy City.

In late March, Sandy City Councilmembers Scott Cowdell and Linda Martinez-Saville announced that they would ask the city to study the costs of expanding its health benefits program to include the unmarried partners or other adult dependents (such as elderly parents or adult siblings) of city workers.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Cowdell, a councilman since 1988, had brought up the issue before. But the city determined that an expansion of its healthcare policy would be too expensive. Since that time, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have extended adult designee health care benefits to their employees — the county Council voting to do so in February of this year.

Cowdell noted that such a program could be beneficial to families of all kinds who might otherwise be unable to go to the hospital in the troubled economic climate.

Although he noted that the issue was not solely about gays and lesbians, Cowdell told the Deseret News that people should have a right to health care regardless of their sexual orientation.

“I think we are our brothers’ keepers, right, and so we should be concerned about people and not their orientation,” he said. “We should be concerned about their health care and their quality of life.”


During the 2009 legislature, local gay rights group Equality Utah attempted to pass four bills that sought to secure more legal rights for gay and transgender Utahns, including housing and employment protections and probate rights. After the failure of those bills —dubbed the Common Ground Initiative — the organization has concentrated its efforts on getting individual Utah cities and municipalities to adopt such things as adult designee programs and workplace protections for gay and transgender municipal employees.
Equality Utah, however, had not contacted Cowdell or Martinez-Saville before the two talked to the press.

The group’s Manager of Public Policy, Will Carlson, called the Councilmembers’ interest “exciting.”
For the moment, however, the push for adult designee benefits in Sandy is only in its research phase. Cowdell even noted that he thinks many on the council won’t address the issue unless research finds that the cost of an adult designee program will be negligible.

Sandy Councilman Bryant Anderson is interested in studying the issue but said he would want benefits only for traditional families.

Further, some on the council may not want to offer the benefits for reasons other than money.
“I’m pretty cautious about creating situations where a lot more money is being committed outside of normal family relationships,” said Bryant Anderson, another Sandy Councilmember. “Family stability is my biggest concern about it [the adult designee program], and I guess the [cost] would be secondary.”

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan said he would not comment on the issue until Cowdell and Martinez-Saville’s proposal had received further study.

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