Benefits for same-sex couples in Palm Beach up for debate

PALM BEACH, Fla.-- Town Council members could decide Thursday whether to extend insurance benefits to domestic partners of the town's employees.

According to Town Manager Peter Elwell, the town hired a consultant to research the subject to determine if it'll benefit the local government.

The consultant suggested it would be a good move to offer benefits to domestic partners, saying it would create "competitiveness in recruitment" and would help retain current employees.

But town officials argue that information is "speculative" and say it would cost the town more than $72,000 a year to provide the benefits to at least five current and former employees who requested it.

Local human rights activists argue, though, that the Town of Palm Beach could afford to spend the money and provide the benefits.

Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council says, "It comes down to equal pay, equal benefits for equal work.There's no reason the town of Palm Beach can't afford to provide that."

Other municipalities, including Wellington, Delray Beach and Lake Worth currently provide benefits to domestic partners, along with several other local government agencies.

Hoch says, "It's the right thing to do. It's not costly. And it really helps attract a better quality of applicants."

The Town Council meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

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