July 27, 2005
Arizona ballot measure hits
hundreds of unmarried partners
story published today in the Arizona Republic reports that
more than 400 Arizonans
would lose their medical insurance and other benefits if voters approved
a constitutional amendment banning government-sponsored benefits to
The measure, which will go on the Nov. 7, 2006, ballot if the necessary
183,917 valid signatures are gathered, prohibits cities, towns and
counties from giving legal status to unmarried couples, gay or straight.
It also defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The measure would
not affect private businesses.
An Arizona Republic
analysis shows that 439, or less than 1 percent, of the roughly 142,273
state and local government employees have unmarried partners who receive
health insurance or other benefits in Arizona. Most of them work in
Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Tucson and in Pima County.
Although a relatively small percentage of Arizonans would lose medical
insurance immediately if the measure was approved, the effects would be
much broader in the future, opponents of the initiative said.
"Thousands of families would be impacted in the future because
governments would no longer be allowed to offer the benefits," said
Steve May, co-chairman of the Arizona Human Rights Fund, a gay and
lesbian advocacy group.
May and other opponents say the measure would prevent state, cities,
towns and counties from offering domestic-partner benefits in the
future. It eventually would mean that thousands of unmarried couples
working for the government would have no chance of ever having the
benefits, he said.
Protecting the status quo
Proponents of the
measure said unmarried couples, straight or gay, shouldn't get the same
benefits as those legally married.
Peter A. Gentala, legal counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy, one
of the main proponents of the amendment, said the goal is to make sure
nothing undermines the status of marriage as between a man and a woman.
"It's a promotion of marriage," he said. "State and municipal
authorities shouldn't be allowed to undermine the definition of
Arizona law prohibits marriages involving same-sex couples, but they are
not banned by the state Constitution. Supporters said that a
constitutional amendment would be the strongest way of protecting the
sanctity of marriage from "activist judges" who might overturn the law.
The proponents launched their campaign in May on the anniversary of
same-sex marriage becoming legal in Massachusetts because of a judge's
The state of Arizona, the biggest government employer, doesn't offer
domestic-partner benefits. Tucson, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe and Pima
County extend medical, dental and other benefits to unmarried couples.
Tucson Unified School District, Pima Community College and Sunnyside
Unified School District in Tucson also offer domestic-partner benefits.
Health insurance benefits
Phoenix employee Peg
Davis said it would be hard for her partner, Paula Ferreira, to continue
operating her flower shop without the city's health insurance package.
"She pays taxes, sales taxes and license fees," Davis said of the
contributions Ferreira's business generates to the state's economy. "She
wouldn't be able to keep making those contributions if she wasn't
covered by my health insurance."
Davis, 45, a deputy chief information officer, said she sought the
Phoenix job six years ago in part because the city offers
"Phoenix is very progressive, and it wants a diverse workforce," said
Davis, who also heads the city's Gay and Lesbian Employee Association, a
loosely knit group of about 20 people. "Gay and unmarried couples alike
are part of the diverse workforce."
Phoenix has 159 employees enrolled in domestic-partner benefits at a
cost of roughly $450,000 annually, city officials said. The benefits
were negotiated with the union in 2000.
Among the requirements to add a partner include a notarized affidavit of
domestic partnership affirming the couple have lived in the same
residence for at least the past 12 consecutive months and a copy of a
joint bank statement.
Children of a domestic partner living with the city's employee also
qualify to be enrolled in the medical package.
"I have to adhere to a very strict standard to get the benefits, but
it's very worthwhile," Davis said, adding that she would consider
leaving the city and possibly the state if domestic-partner benefits
were taken away.
Tempe, Scottsdale, Tucson and Pima County also require, among other
things, statements affirming domestic partnerships.
The potential impact on other government jurisdictions:
• Tucson's domestic-partner registry has 257 couples, but only 30 city
employees have signed up their partners for the health or dental
insurance, said Michael Carson, a city spokesman. The cost is roughly
$110,406 per year.
• In Tempe, 32 domestic partners are enrolled. The city pays 70 percent
of a spouse or domestic partner's medical coverage, which ranges from
$2,940 to $3,680 a year depending on the plan selected.
• In Pima County, 175 employees are in the domestic-partner medical or
dental insurance plans at a cost of about $349,674 annually.
Amelia Craig Cramer, a 45-year-old county lawyer, is one of them. Her
partner, Amy Cramer is a college professor and can afford health
insurance on her own.
But the couple decided to get the benefits through Pima County because
they felt it was a way of publicly recognizing their union.
"We want to be on the same insurance as a family," said Craig Cramer,
chief civil deputy at Pima County Attorney's Office. The couple live in
Tucson with their 6-year-old daughter. "We want our family to be
Other perks are also at stake.
"We would lose our right to hospital visitations in Tucson and family
discounts to parks activities," said Craig Cramer, who also fears the
proposed initiative could trigger private employers to start backing out
of offering domestic-partner benefits.
In Arizona, there were 118,196 households with unmarried partners in
2000, or 10.7 percent of all couples in the state, the U.S. Census
Bureau reported. About 12,000 households included same-sex couples.