When the idea of extending city benefits first came about, there was talk of an ordinance that would recognize civil unions and same-sex marriages recognized in different states. Much has changed since then, the council is now looking at other partnerships as well. It's also unclear if the council will be the body signing off on the changes after all.
"We just want to be up with the times and we feel now is the time to do it," says Councilman Jonathan Weaver, D-At Large.
Earlier this year, Weaver asked the City Council attorney to draft an ordinance that would make the spouses of city employees in civil unions and same-sex marriages recognized in other states eligible for city benefits. Since then, the idea has expanded. He says other council members have asked about including same- and opposite- sex domestic partnerships.
"I think we're all on board with the civil unions and the marriages," explains Weaver. "But if we want to add domestic partnerships, that's the number that's clearly unknown."
The city budgeted $22 million for health care in 2014. It's a line item that continues to grow year after year. In 2008, it was around $14 million.
"You add all the other things into it, it can become a challenging number as this year and the next year goes by," says Council President John Friend, D-5th Ward. "Now you can see why we need to see a fiscal impact."
The council is expected to sign a resolution Monday -- enabling a study to find out how much any benefit expansion would cost. It could also determine what types domestic partnerships receive benefits. "We're just being fiscally responsible to see how much the bottom line is," says Weaver.
Evansville would not be the first city in the Hoosier state to recognize certain domestic partnerships. Carmel and Bloomington are among Indiana cities that already do. But in both cases, the council didn't make the call. Instead, it was done by the mayor.
"So the question can come by as, well, action from the council is not necessary," says Friend. "What would be necessary is the financial impact."
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has not publicly said how he would feel about extending city benefits to certain domestic partnerships. However, he is in support of City Council researching how much such a move would cost.
Who will be affected, what it would cost, and which branch of government will have the ultimate say all remain unknown. But with a study on the horizon it appears the tides of Evansville will continue to change.
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