Reno OKs benefits to domestic partners

RENO -- The city of Reno has become the latest local government entity in Nevada to extend benefits to the domestic partners of its employees.

The Reno City Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution that will extend health care benefits to domestic partners, whether gay or straight, who register with the Nevada secretary of state under a new state law.

Council members say it's an issue of fairness.

"It's equity," Councilman Pierre Hascheff told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It's part of the cost of doing business. It's part of the benefit package an employee gets."

Council members do not think the action will cost the city that much money, even though they have not yet received a staff analysis of potential costs.

"We will find a way" to absorb the extra costs, City Manager Donna Dreska said.

Lee Rowland, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, praised the council's action.

She expects the change to add dozens of people, not hundreds, to the city's health insurance program.

"We at the ACLU hope their action serves as a beacon so that other local governments will take the same step forward in getting full equality for all couples," Rowland said.

Other entities offering similar benefits to employees' domestic partners are the Washoe County School District and the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson.

The state of Nevada will begin offering health benefits to its employees' domestic partners on July 1, 2010. But employees involved will bear the full cost of the benefits.