Same-sex benefits proposal to be introduced to Council Monday


The fate of same-sex benefits in Indianapolis could come down to dollars and cents.

Monday night, members of the City-County Council will introduce an ordinance granting health and financial benefits to city workers with domestic and same-sex partners.

Will French, who works in the county clerk's office and is gay, says it's time Indianapolis gets on board.

"I think it's important from a fairness perspective that all families, regardless of sexual orientation or other things, be recognized and valued," French said.

It's an ordinance Curt Smith with the Indiana Family Institute strongly opposes.

"It sends the message that domestic partnerships are the same as marriage and that's not true," Smith said. "Marriage is all about rearing and raising the next generation and we don't want that message lost or diluted."

Other opponents, including Republican Councilor Aaron Freeman, say they're most concerned about the cost. The controller estimates it at about $200,000 a year to cover roughly 28 employees.

"This is an economic issue for me. I'm looking at it from pure finances," Freeman said.

He said given the upcoming budget, just funding public safety is going to be tough.

"We're $80 million short," Freeman said. "I cannot justify spending dollars for new programs when we don't have enough money to cover what we did this year, next year."

Republicans Jack Sandlin and Marilyn Pfisterer have expressed similar concerns.

Democratic Councilor Zach Adamson, who is gay, said while money "should be a concern, we're talking about recruiting and retaining a quality workforce that will cost one-half of one percent of all we spend on healthcare."

Adamson noted that 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, including Indiana-based Eli Lilly, Cummins and the Simon Property Group.

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but the fact is gays and lesbians pay taxes, too, and we're already funneling those dollars into married couples and their pensions and vacation time and benefits packages as well," he said.

French also questions the cost argument.

"I guess if fairness dictates it, if you can afford it for some, you must afford it for all, so I just don't buy that argument," he said.

The ordinance's sponsors include both Democrats and Republicans. They believe the ordinance has enough votes to pass. It will likely be sent to a committee before returning to the full council.

A spokesman for the mayor says he's open to the plan, but wants to see the final version before weighing in.