Knoxville leaders talk about offering domestic partner benefits

Knoxville leaders talk about offering domestic partner benefits

Posted:
"My view is that we should do what we can to give equal benefits to all our employees. I think that's the right thing to do," said school board member Indya Kincannon. "My view is that we should do what we can to give equal benefits to all our employees. I think that's the right thing to do," said school board member Indya Kincannon.
I don't believe there should be any subclass of citizens regardless of the color of your skin, your nationality or your sexual orientation," said Tim Wheeler. I don't believe there should be any subclass of citizens regardless of the color of your skin, your nationality or your sexual orientation," said Tim Wheeler.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some city and county governments around the U.S. are offering benefits, like those for married couples, to workers who have a domestic partner. That goes for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

In the town of Collegedale, near Chattanooga, commissioners are drafting a domestic benefits proposal with a final vote set for August. If approved, Collegedale would be the first city in Tennessee to offer domestic partner benefits. 

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said her office is considering offering domestic partner benefits to city employees, but first they have to weigh the issues of legality, fairness and cost.

"Whenever you expand healthcare benefits to family members, I think that's a plus. I think businesses have found, from what I've heard from them, is that it improves your ability to recruit and retain employees. Whenever you have healthcare, that means you've got a more stable workforce," Rogero said.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, on the other hand, said he doesn't plan to consider it anytime soon.

"If or when the state of Tennessee recognizes civil unions, then we will review, with legal counsel, who is eligible for our benefit plans," he said.

"I just don't believe in discriminating against anybody. I don't believe there should be any subclass of citizens regardless of the color of your skin, your nationality or your sexual orientation," said Tim Wheeler, a chief deputy court clerk in Knox County who also sits on the county's employee heath insurance committee. He wants to start the conversation there.

"My personal opinion, I would like to see us begin at least the negotiations in looking at it, offering domestic partner benefits," Wheeler said.

It's also something the Knox County Board of Education could take up in the near future.

"My view is that we should do what we can to give equal benefits to all our employees. I think that's the right thing to do," said school board member Indya Kincannon.

Last year, the UT Faculty Senate drafted a resolution in support of employee benefits for same-sex couples, but chancellors denied the request saying it was inconsistent with the state constitution that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

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