Straight veteran helps win gay benefits in Smyrna

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Nevermind cranky old guy Corkey. The Smyrna City Council, thanks to a straight retired Army Ranger, expanded its insurance offerings on Monday to offer health benefits to the spouses of its gay employees.

The City Council has chewed over the idea for about a year. City Council member Charles “Corkey” Welch fought it, arguing that he's got a “moral issue” with the gays getting married. But Council member Wade Lnenicka (photo), the straight veteran, pushed the measure as a nod to equality.

Via the Marietta Daily Journal:

“As of this week, 36 states and the District of Columbia now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and maybe in some of the other states, certain counties and cities do. So, it’s increasingly going to put us in a situation where if someone shows up in the city’s HR department with a valid marriage license issued by a state or a county or a city, do we deny them benefits that other married couples get?” Lnenicka asked before the vote. “I just don’t think we should discriminate against people for any reason.”

Council member Melleny Pritchett joined Welch in voting against the expanded heath benefits, but it wasn't enough. The measure passed 5-2.

Smyrna now becomes the first city in Cobb County to offer domestic partner benefits, though several governments in the state – including Atlanta, Fulton and Athens-Clarke County – already do.

Smyrna already provides gay married couples retirement benefits to meet a federal IRS mandate. Marietta begrudgingly added the retirement benefits in September, despite City Council member Anthony Coleman. He managed to fire off homophobic ramblings about the measure despite his federal indictment on racketeering charges.

The move by Smyrna city officials comes just days after Publix changed its policies and offered health benefits to the spouses of its married employees. The grocery chain is Cobb's 12th-largest employer, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Council member Teri Anulewicz, who voted in favor of expanding Smyrna's benefits, pointed to the move by Publix.

Publix has chosen to recognize those marriages, and I feel that Smyrna should do the same thing,” she said before the meeting. “Publix, interestingly, is one of the largest employers in the city of Smyrna, but I do think it’s time to do it. I’ve had colleagues who have said, same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Georgia. Can we do this? And I’m like, well, Publix has an army of attorneys who say it’s A–OK. This has been vetted by many organizations that are larger and have far more attorneys than we do, and if they’re saying it’s OK, then that tells me that it’s something that we can do.”

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