Local News

Pueblo votes to allow same-sex benefits

Same-sex benefits ordinace passes late Tuesday

PUEBLO, Colo. - Gay city workers in Pueblo will soon be able to add their partners to their insurance benefits after the city council approved its same-sex benefits ordinance late Tuesday.

The measure passed 6-1, with council president Chris Kaufman voting against it.

When explaining his decision, Kaufman cited his Christian values and the fact that Colorado has not legalized same-sex unions.

"The pendulum doesn't have to swing from being against something to being a bigot or a homophobe," said Kaufman.

There was standing room only in council chambers, and while supporters of the measure outnumbered opponents, both were passionate during a public comment period that lasted more than an hour.

"The only way this can get passed is for you to deny what we say over and over again: that we're not for this type of legislation," said Mark Aliff, talking about Colorado's current stance against gay marriage.

"Quite frankly, I have a hard time understanding why my family is covered and why a co-worker's family may not be covered," said a man in support of the measure who identified himself as a city employee.

Estimates are that it will cost the city about $54,000 a year if eight gay city workers take advantage of the ordinance. City leaders said it's not known how many gay employees there are.

In addition to allowing gay workers to add domestic partners to their insurance, the measure also gives them the same funeral leave and maternity/paternity leave afforded to married employees.

"I am so very proud of my community and the leaders we have elected for this community for passing this ordinance that will give equality to every city worker in Pueblo," said Daneya Esgar, a supporter.

Part of the reason this issue was so controversial is that council was supposed to vote on it in September, but instead opted to indefinitely shelve the measure. It was brought back to the table soon after.

The ordinance will take effect at the start of the new year.

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