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Durham Votes To Allow Benefits For Domestic Partners

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham has become just the third city in thestate to offer health benefits to domestic partners.

City council members voted 4-to-3 Monday night in favor of thechange, with support from Mayor Pro Tem Lewis Cheek who reversedhis vote from an earlier meeting.

In June, Cheek said he wasn't "philosophically opposed" to thebenefits but that he didn't think the council had enoughinformation to make an informed decision.

With the city's insurance policy up for renewal, the cityadministration raised the issue again last week, recommending thatthe council adopt the new policy.

This time Cheek said new information provided to the councilshowed him there were provisions against fraud in the policy andthat its cost would be negligible.

"It's a matter of fairness," he said, saying that traditionaland nontraditional families should be treated equally.

Cheek was joined by Mayor Bill Bell and council members CoraCole-McFadden and Howard Clement in supporting the benefits.Council members John Best Jr., Tamra Edwards and Thomas Stithopposed them.

The vote was preceded by a heated exchange between a group ofbenefits supporters, many of whom said they were gay, and a groupof religious people, who said homosexuality is against God's will.

Under the proposal, unmarried and otherwise unrelatedheterosexual and homosexual partners who live with and shareexpenses with city employees would be eligible for city health anddental coverage. Employees would be required to sign documentsaffirming their partnership.

Carrboro and Chapel Hill are the only other cities in the state that offers health benefits to domestic partners.

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