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NY town drops domestic partnership coverage

They are claiming the expense (only two employees are signed up), but it’s intolerance rumbling. (NYT):

our years ago, Eastchester became one of the first communities in Westchester County to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of its employees. Critics charged that the town supervisor had rammed the plan through and voted him out of office. Now Eastchester has become the first town in New York to end the benefits.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the Town Board voted 3 to 2 to approve new union contracts and to end a town policy of providing coverage for domestic partners. The town’s Civil Service Employees Association and police union agreed to dropping the coverage, saying their members had more pressing concerns. The two employees who have made use of the benefits will be allowed to continue to do so, but new employees will not be eligible.

Town officials say they took the action to save money, but when the issue arose four years ago, one local group condemned the idea of domestic partner benefits as an effort by gay activists to promote same-sex marriage. Gay rights groups said yesterday that the town’s decision was a dangerous step backward that could eat away at policies that have become common in government and the private sector.

“The town is out of step with what has become an established trend,” said Ross Levi, director of public policy and government affairs for Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights group. “One set of families is going to get protection, and another set is going to be left out in the cold.”

This is a real victory,” Raymond W. Belair, a lawyer with Family First, a local group that opposed the policy, said yesterday.

In 2002, the group filed a lawsuit against the town, which it now plans to drop, and collected more than 1,100 signatures on a petition opposing the policy. After Mr. Colavita said he was willing to end the policy, the group endorsed his candidacy, and he narrowly won the 2003 primary.

This was always about the gay lobby chipping away to get to marriage,” Mr. Belair said. “And right now there is nothing more important than preserving marriage.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding