LGBTQ Equality - On September 21, 2005, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson signed an executive order to extend health and other employment benefits to city employees' same-sex and heterosexual domestic partners. Less than a week later, the governing body of the agency that administers health insurance for state and local government employees filed a petition with the state court requesting clarification about whether Utah law prohibits Salt Lake City from offering health insurance benefits to domestic partners.
Specifically, the Utah State Retirement Board cited Utah’s constitutional amendment prohibiting the government from giving same-sex relationships the “same or substantially equivalent legal effect” as marriage, as well as Utah’s Marriage Recognition Policy, which states that Utah will not recognize any law that creates benefits for unmarried couples that are “substantially equivalent” to marriage.
On November 10, 2005, the ACLU of Utah, the national ACLU, Salt Lake City Police Department employee Dianna Goodliffe, and the local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed an amicus brief in support of Salt Lake City’s executive order. In our brief, we argue that there is nothing in Utah’s statutory or constitutional law that prohibits Salt Lake City from offering domestic partner benefits, that health insurance is not “substantially equivalent” to marriage, and that there are strong public policy arguments in favor of making such benefits available.
In February 2006, the Salt Lake City Council voted to replace Mayor Anderson’s benefits plan with one that allows unmarried city employees to sign up “adult designees” for health insurance. In addition to domestic partners, such designees could be relatives or roommates. On May 11, 2006, Third District Judge Stephen Roth issued a ruling stating that the Council’s benefit plan was not in violation of Utah law. The judge also acknowledged the policy arguments in favor of providing more expansive benefit plans, noting that, “as a practical matter single employees may have relationships outside of marriage, whether motivated by family feeling, emotional attachment or practical considerations, which draw on their resources to provide the necessaries of life, including health care.” Salt Lake City has indicated that it will implement the new benefits plan immediately.