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Bill would allow state workers to insure domestic partners, adult relatives

Published January 18, 2012 6:46 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The ability of Utah's public employees to share their health insurance with a same-sex partner could be extended beyond liberal outposts in Salt Lake and Summit counties to the farthest reaches of the state.

Rep. Brian Doughty, a Salt Lake City Democrat and the state's only openly gay lawmaker, has filed a bill that would allow unmarried state employees to share employee benefits with an "adult designee" instead of a spouse. It's similar to programs provided by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County governments. A designee may be any cohabiting, financially inter-dependent adult, such as an aging parent or a gay partner.

"As Utahns, we're not all husband-and-wife-and-kids households. We've got disabled siblings, parents who live with their children and various other forms of families," Doughty said. "I see insurance as a benefit that is earned by being a contributing employee. This bill would expand the flexibility of how employees use their insurance."

Under Doughty's HB64, employees seeking the benefit would have to show they have lived with their designee for at least the past 12 months, and provide three documents that show shared financial obligations, such as a mortgage, bank account, power-of-attorney document or will.

More than 20,000 people work for the State of Utah, according to the Department of Workforce Services. In Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, a small portion of employees — about 1 or 2 percent — have enrolled adult designees in health insurance plans.

West Valley City, Park City, Summit County, Salt Lake City School District and Park City School District allow unmarried employees to share their benefits with a domestic partner but not other financially dependent adults.

Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, said her group backs the bill. Passage, she said, would show that "the State of Utah respects families and wants to support them in being responsible for all members of their household."

rwinters@sltrib.com

Twitter: @rosemarywinters