Pueblo Council OK's Benefits For Same Sex Couples

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Same sex couples can now add their partners to their health insurance coverage- if one of them works for the City of Pueblo.

Some people cheered and others stormed out after it passed the city council by a 6 to 1 vote Tuesday evening.

At a public hearing before the vote, supporters made passionate pleas both in favor and opposition of the ordinance.

Many wore stickers that said “Pueblo = Equality” asking the council to put aside personal beliefs and focus on equal worker rights. About a dozen spoke in favor of it, saying it should be based on how hard that person works, not the gender make-up of their family.

“It comes down to equality, which is a huge value that I share with many people in this community; and equality for our city workers, they deserve to be treated like everyone else, and they deserve to protect their families no matter what they look like,” said Daneya Esgar, a speaker and member of the Colorado Progressive Coalition.

The public hearing was filled with 90 minutes of passionate testimony from both sides about the controversial issue. Some even cited the economic benefits it could have to attract larger organizations.

“I think this sends a positive message to everybody in the community but especially our gay community that we are included when it comes to protections, we are included when it comes to equality in the workplace and we are valued as workers,’ said Esgar.

At least a half dozen spoke against it, citing moral beliefs and saying that it wasn’t an issues of discrimination, but that same-sex couples are not in a legal marriage, according to Colorado law.

“We’re here to discuss public policy. And in public policy it can get messy, we can have different opinions. We’re not here to talk about lesbian, gay, trans-gender, or bisexual couples; that’s not what the issue is all about,” said a speaker against the issue.

They also said that it goes against the will of both Colorado and Pueblo County voters who said no to legalizing domestic partnerships.

“The thing in the state have been said, this can’t be. There’s a reason why, because the people of Colorado said we don’t agree with this,” said one of the speaker against the issue.

The President of the city council is the only one who voted against it. He cited moral beliefs and that he had to stand with voters who repeatedly have said marriage is between a man and a woman.

Pueblo now joins at least 6 other Colorado communities that passed the same ordinance. It will go into effect in 10 days, but workers won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits until after January. This is just due to when insurance eligibility becomes available for any city worker.

The vote came after the council decided to postpone the discussion indefinitely back in September. There was an outcry of public opposition from the community, that they had to put the issue back on the agenda.

Also Tuesday, councilors prayed before the meeting.

At the past few meetings, the plan was to replace the prayer with a moment of silence after an atheist group sent them a letter and said they should stop praying at meetings, claiming it's unconstitutional.

The President tried to clear up some confusion about the issue. He said they never planned on stopping the invocation and they have no intention as of right now to stop what he called a tradition deeply rooted in U.S. history. He says they plan on postponing the issue of the letter until later.