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August 26, 2011

County looks at partner benefits for workers

Cleveland--Cuyahoga County council is looking at giving workers domestic partner benefits, with Councilor Sunny Simon introducing an ordinance at the August 23 meeting.

County executive Ed FitzGerald is examining changes to the health care plans for county workers to save the county around $2 million, which would likely more than pay for same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners to get equal benefits as their married coworkers.

Cleveland approved partner benefits for city workers last month, but limited them to couples who had registered as domestic partners by May 1. The Cuyahoga benefits would simply require that the workers have evidence of combined lives. This can include being on a domestic partner registry, co-ownership of property, power of attorney or beneficiary status in each other’s wills. Statements would have to be backed up by signed affidavits, and the worker would be required to notify human resources if the relationship ends, in which case so would the benefits.

Five of the eleven council members have already joined Simon, of District 11, as sponsors. They are Council President C. Ellen Connally of District 9, Dale Miller of District 2, Dan Brady of District 3, Yvonne Conwell of District 7 and Julian Rogers of District 10.

The measure has been assigned to the human resources and justice affairs committees. If it passes those committees, it heads to the entire council.

FitzGerald indicated his general support of the measure, although he said he would like an estimate of the cost.

“I think it’s a civil rights issue,” he told the Plain Dealer. “I think it’s an issue of equity and fairness.”

“It’s important to me that the county move forward as a county that actually embraces social justice and inclusiveness,” Simon said. “Also it will enable us to broaden our range in attracting new employees and residents to the county.”

For the Cleveland domestic partner benefits, if all 15 couples who were believed to be eligible signed up for the plan, it would cost the city $100,000, a small fraction of the municipality’s benefits budget, and less than $7,000 per couple.

This summer has been quite active for the LGBT community in Cuyahoga County, with Cleveland’s partner benefits, an expansion of East Cleveland’s civil rights ordinances a day earlier, the settlement of the lawsuit that threatened the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland and the announcement last week that Elton John and Billie Jean King were bringing their annual tennis AIDS fundraiser to Cleveland this fall.









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