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December 22, 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 51
 
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Des Moines adopts domestic partner benefits for employees - 'Long overdue' says councilmember
Des Moines adopts domestic partner benefits for employees - 'Long overdue' says councilmember
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

The city of Des Moines, Washington, joined a growing list of Washington State cities extending benefits to the same-sex partner of city employees. The city council, which oversees about 135 employees and represents an approximate population of 29,000 people, voted 5-1 on December 14 to approve amended Ordinance #06-253.

The ordinance was modeled after one adopted by the city of Burien in 2001. However, the city council also voted to adopt two amendments. One amendment extends domestic partner benefits to both opposite-gender and same-gender partners and the second require that the couples have been together for at least one year. In addition, couples must also sign an affidavit and abide by additional requirements imposed by the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), which require that couples show they have a substantive relationship and share expenses.

Des Moines City Councilmember Dave Kaplan, the primary sponsor of the ordinance, applauded the vote. "I'm very happy to have these benefits now provided equally to all Des Moines city employees. It's long overdue," he said.

Kaplan, who is openly Gay, has served on the council from 1997 - 2001 and was again elected to the city council in 2005. In 2001, Kaplan also sponsored an employment non-discrimination law for city employees that included sexual orientation. According to Kaplan, he had been approached by Lesbian and Gay city employees who inquired about the availably of domestic partner benefits.

Mayor Bob Sheckler and Councilmembers Ed Pina, Carmen Scott, Susan White and Kaplan voted in favor of the amended ordinance. Councilmember Scott Thomasson voted against it. Councilmember Dan Sherman was out of town and did not vote.

According to Michelle Harvey, communications coordinator for the Association of Washington Cities, they insure 17 cities who offer domestic partner benefits for same-gender domestic partners. However, many of our state's larger cities are not included in AWC's figures because they self-insure. The Human Rights Campaign, which tracks domestic partner benefits by government entities, listed eight cities and counties in Washington State that offer such benefits, including Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver.

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