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Sacramento County OKs Partner Benefits

September 12, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors reversed itself this week and voted to offer domestic partnership benefits to the county's 14,000 employees.

The 3-2 decision Tuesday came when Supervisor Muriel Johnson announced a change of heart after hearing stories of county employees who faced hardships because their partners did not have insurance.

Previously, a majority of supervisors had opposed the move, citing potential increased costs and opposition to recognizing same-sex unions.

The new policy won't cost the cash-strapped county any money because employees will be required to pay the full premium for their partners. Eligible couples would have to register with the state as domestic partners.

"Personally, I think it's long overdue," said Supervisor Roger Dickinson. "It's not only the appropriate and humane thing to do, but it's also a good business decision for the county."

Employees who are worried about their partners' health may be distracted at work, which does not serve the people of Sacramento, he said.

Gay-rights advocates hailed the move.

"We commend Sacramento for recognizing the need to provide equal benefits," said Ilona Turner, of the California Alliance for Pride and Equality. "This is a big arena in which same-sex couples are denied the benefits and rights that married couples take for granted."

When the new policy goes into effect next year, Sacramento County will join 14 other California counties and 19 cities in California that offer domestic partner benefits. Los Angeles County has offered such benefits since 1995.

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