Poll Shows Salt Lakers Favor Proposal for Partner Benefits

Poll Shows Salt Lakers Favor Proposal for Partner Benefits

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- More than half of Salt Lake City residents favor a proposal to give health care benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, a new poll shows.

In a copyright story Monday, the Deseret Morning News reported that a Dan Jones & Associates poll found 54 percent support the proposal from Mayor Rocky Anderson, while 42 percent oppose it.

Anderson has promised to sign an executive order by November giving medical and dental benefits to non-married domestic partners.

Opponents have threatened to sue if Anderson goes forward. They say that under Amendment 3, the ballot initiative that outlawed gay marriage in Utah's constitution, domestic partner benefits are illegal. Under the amendment no relationship outside a marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized.

Anderson's proposal is sparking plenty of debate.

Amendment proponents had once argued that the law would not prohibit domestic partner benefits. Now they contend the law won't let Anderson proceed.

State Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, an attorney who led the push for Amendment 3, has also said he'll sponsor a bill during the 2006 Legislature to prohibit Anderson's plan.

"Under current law, I do not believe the mayor has authority," Christensen said. "It's not because I'm trying to turn a deaf ear or hard heart toward anyone. We've debated it and adopted it. ... Marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of society."

Gay marriage advocates previously said the amendment would ban partner benefits. But in the latest round of arguments, they say the law should allow for what Anderson proposes.

"The Yes! for Marriage folks flat out said if a local city wants to offer domestic partner benefits, it can," said Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, an attorney who is one of two openly gay lawmakers. "If Amendment 3 is just about marriage, I don't see this has anything to do with marriage."

But Yes! for Marriage attorneys have said that governments can extend benefits to anyone they want, as long as they don't do it on the basis of a sexual relationship.

Anderson has said he only wants to give benefits to unmarried same-sex and gay couples, not "to the whole universe," a group that would include other dependents such as siblings, parents or adult children.

Christensen says his reaction to Anderson's proposal if the mayor wanted to open benefits universally.

"As I understand it, Mayor Anderson wants equality, regardless of sexual orientation. He wants to create a spouse equivalent under insurance benefits."

Nothing in current state law specifically states to whom governments can offer benefits, but the Legislature could create such restrictions, said David Church, legal counsel for the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

"Cities' powers are derived from legislation, so the state Legislature can enlarge at their will what cities can and can't do," Church said.

The statewide poll of 414 Utah residents was conducted from Aug. 29-Sept. 1 and has a margin of error of 5 percent. The Salt Lake City poll was conducted among 230 residents, between Aug. 29-Sept. 1 and has a margin of error of 7 percent.


Information from: Deseret Morning News, http://www.deseretnews.com

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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