DURHAM, N.C. — Durham has become just the third city in the state to offer health benefits to domestic partners.
City council members voted 4-to-3 Monday night in favor of the change, with support from Mayor Pro Tem Lewis Cheek who reversed his vote from an earlier meeting.
In June, Cheek said he wasn't "philosophically opposed" to the benefits but that he didn't think the council had enough information to make an informed decision.
With the city's insurance policy up for renewal, the city administration raised the issue again last week, recommending that the council adopt the new policy.
This time Cheek said new information provided to the council showed him there were provisions against fraud in the policy and that its cost would be negligible.
"It's a matter of fairness," he said, saying that traditional and nontraditional families should be treated equally.
Cheek was joined by Mayor Bill Bell and council members Cora Cole-McFadden and Howard Clement in supporting the benefits. Council members John Best Jr., Tamra Edwards and Thomas Stith opposed them.
The vote was preceded by a heated exchange between a group of benefits supporters, many of whom said they were gay, and a group of religious people, who said homosexuality is against God's will.
Under the proposal, unmarried and otherwise unrelated heterosexual and homosexual partners who live with and share expenses with city employees would be eligible for city health and dental coverage. Employees would be required to sign documents affirming their partnership.
Carrboro and Chapel Hill are the only other cities in the state that offers health benefits to domestic partners.