DALLAS -- The Dallas County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to begin giving a stipend to unmarried and gay employees whose partners purchase individual health insurance because they aren’t eligible for coverage under the county’s benefits program.
The policy was approved by a vote of 3-2, split along party lines, with Democrats hailing the new domestic partnership policy as a way to attract and retain talent and compete against companies that offer health insurance for domestic partners of employees, reported the Dallas Morning News.
Supporters said the new policy was a way to embrace the county’s diversity.
The vote came after contentious public statements from both sides of the issue.
“There is simply no place for pernicious partisanship when it comes to equality," said Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center Dallas.
In opposition, one local resident, Debbie Morozzo argued against the measure, telling the Commissioners, "This is utterly ridiculous and totally irresponsible position on your part. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money."
The issue is whether Dallas County should provide a stipend of up to $295 per year for county employees' domestic partners who otherwise would not qualify for medical benefits. The three Democrats on the commission favored the move while the two Republicans were opposed.
"Are we going to fund obese people?,” asked Republican Commissioner Maurine Dickey. “Are we going to start funding smokers? Are we going to fund people who have blue Pontiacs?"
Dallas County officials said offering the stipend will cost the county no more than $100,000 per year. The policy takes effect beginning in 2013.
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