Workers offer counter-petition on domestic partner benefits

Effort in response to protest of city health plan for unmarried couples

Posted: Friday, November 14, 2003

City workers opposed to a petition against health care coverage for domestic partners are countering with their own petition.

Employees in the engineering department created a petition Thursday morning after learning some of their colleagues opposed a new health care policy covering domestic partners, Chief Project Engineer Rosemary Matt said.

About 20 employees from engineering, community development and the library had signed the petition as of Thursday afternoon, Matt said.

"We want to give a balanced view that there are people supporting the petition," she said. "I think everyone should have benefits available to them."

Matt, and her husband, Paul, lived together unmarried for years, she said. At that time, each had their own separate health care coverage. But if their employers had offered health care coverage for domestic partners, they would have had secondary insurance as well as their own. For example, Matt's health care plan could have picked up costs that her domestic partner's plan did not and vice-versa.

While health insurance is not a reason to marry, it is a notable concern, Matt said. She and her husband have been married for two years. Matt has worked for the city for four years.

Employees spearheading the petition plan to collect more signatures and forward it to City Manager Rod Swope to show him they support his decision, Matt said. They are mainly garnering signatures through word of mouth, Matt said.

Swope made an administrative decision to offer health care benefits to domestic partners of city employees. Swope's decision was based on a recommendation by the city's Health Benefits Committee.

When the city forwarded health care enrollment forms to city employees a couple of weeks ago, some objected to benefits being offered to domestic partners. Lawrence Love, a Juneau Airport maintenance worker, is leading a fight against coverage for domestic partners. He circulated a petition among city employees and refuses to sign health insurance enrollment forms with the words, "domestic partner." Love, who is married, said his position is based on moral and financial grounds.

When asked about the counter petition, Love said the group has a right to circulate their own petition. Love said he encourages public discourse over the issue of health benefits for domestic partners. He wants to hear the position of taxpayers who fund city employees' health care coverage, he said.

The city is self-insured and pays $700 a month toward any of the three health care coverage plans. Dec. 1 is the deadline to enroll in health care coverage.

Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said Matt's group has the right to circulate a petition and publicize their opinions. Work on the petition, however, cannot be done on city time, using city resources, Pierce said. What employees do in their own free time is their business, she said.

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