A work session by the Smyrna City Council over a proposal to offer domestic partner benefits to city workers shows it faces hurdles, including the dated (and tired) musings of a guy named “Corkey.”
The policy would extend benefits including health insurance to the same-sex domestic partners of gay city employees. But even with three council members – Wade Lnenicka, Andrea Blustein and Teri Anulewicz – backing it, the proposal faces opposition from Council member Charles “Corkey” Welch (photo), according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
It seems Corkey, a 30-year-resident of the Cobb County city, is clinging to the past with dated phobias and misconceptions.
Welch worried the domestic partner policy could leave the city government “open for fraud.”
“I will have a difficult time supporting it,” he said.
Welch described a hypothetical situation in which two platonic roommates — one of whom works for the city and the other of whom receives a “financially devastating” medical diagnosis — “swear they’re life partners” in order to extend the employee’s life insurance policy to the sick friend.
He expressed concern the provision would allow such individuals to “take advantage of the situation and sign up for our insurance.”
In Monday evening’s meeting, Welch also said he takes “moral issue” with same-sex partnerships and told the council he does not support them.
But Monday's debate also showed hope as Lnenicka – a straight, retired Army Ranger and Ward 6 Council member – said offering domestic partner benefits is “the right thing to do.”
“I think the country is changing its views on that subject. I think it’s wrong to deny equal rights and protection to anybody,” he said. “I don’t think it means we’re endorsing gay marriage or gay civil unions, but it says we’re going to treat our gay employees just like our heterosexual employees.”
Lnenicka said one reason he’s proposing the change is because he’s comfortable with who he is and believes others should have the same rights he does.
“I’m comfortable. I’m a heterosexual guy, but I’m comfortable in who I am in saying that we should treat everybody the same in terms of the city benefits and privileges and rights.”
As an army ranger with “nothing to hide or to prove,” Lnenicka said he is “not afraid” to confront the issue.
“We’re not trying to redefine marriage; we’re just trying to say what benefits are available for our employees.”
The proposal will see a legal review before the council can schedule a formal vote, City Administrator Eric Taylor told the MDJ. In its vote count, the newspaper reported that Council members Rob Fennel and Susan Wilkinson are undecided, while Mayor Pro-Tem Melleny Pritchett and Mayor Max Bacon did not respond to questions about the proposal.
Last year, Avondale Estates in DeKalb County approved a domestic partner registry. About a dozen jurisdictions across Georgia, including Atlanta and Athens-Clarke County, offer domestic partner benefits.