STEVENS POINT, WI (WSAU) - A proposal before the Stevens Point City Council Monday night is seeking to give domestic partnerships the same rights as traditional husband and wife couples.
Mayor Andrew Halverson and City Attorney Andrew Logan Beveridge drafted the changes, which would change the language of city policies to openly include same sex couples or life partners, and would accept domestic partners under the city’s family insurance benefits.
Halverson believes it’s time to make these changes. “We want to be able to maintain the most all-inclusive workplace that we can possibly have, and send the message through regulations relating to Stevens Point as a workplace that Stevens Point as an overall community is extremely inclusive.”
Making changes to include domestic partnerships may be controversial, but Halverson believes it is the right thing to do. “I think it’s clearly the right thing to do. I know and understand that others will have varying opinions to that. “I’m of the impression that treating people as equally as you possibly can is by far the right thing to do.”
Halverson says same-sex couples are presently at a disadvantage. “Heterosexual partners have an opportunity to marry, if for a non-religious reason, certainly for a legal reason. same sex couples do not have that opportunity. Domestic partnerships really are the only avenue that these folks have to recognize the commitment that two individuals who are in love make to one another, and that, I think, needs to be respected by all government agencies.”
The Mayor believes making these changes is also going to help the city attract and keep the best people. “It’s a great workplace to be in. We want folks who are looking to come here to know that we are inclusive of everyone regardless of your background.”
The Domestic Partnership proposal advanced to the council without the approval of the city’s Personnel Committee. Halverson says they did not give it the reception he hoped for. “The Personnel Committee was very interesting. There was a motion to approve, and there were no comments, no seconds of any kind. In essence, the silence was somewhat deafening.”
Part of the changes proposed by Mayor Halverson include insurance coverage for an employee’s domestic partner and the partner’s eligible children and grandchildren. Some aldermen have already said the problem lies in the language of the draft agreement. Council President Jerry Moore is one that believes the words “same sex” is discriminatory, and goes against the state laws pertaining to domestic partnerships.
Expect plenty of debate and possibly some amendments before a vote at the city council meeting Monday night.
According to Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, governmental bodies already offering domestic partner benefits include the cities of Madison, Milwaukee, Appleton, Eau Claire, and Racine plus La Crosse and Milwaukee Counties. Businesses offering domestic partnership benefits include SC Johnson, MillerCoors, Kimberly-Clark, Aurora Health Care, and American Family Insurance.
Another controversial issue is before the City Council Monday evening. Final approval is expected for the sale of Edgewater Manor to a private developer. The city's Community Development Authority owned senior housing operates in the red without HUD subsidies, and would go back on the tax rolls with the anticipated sale to Affordable Senior Housing.
Stevens Point City Council meets at 7:00 p.m. Monday at the City-County Building.