Margate City Commission Approves Same-Sex Health Benefits

You can now add Margate in the growing number of Broward County and Palm Beach cities extending benefits to same-sex couples.

In a 3-2 vote earlier this week, Margate's city commissioners approved to extend benefits to same-sex couples who were legally married in another state, or are in a domestic partnership.

Included in the benefits are health, dental, and life, insurance, as well as the Employee Assistance Program and FMLA for maternity, bereavement, or sick leave.

See also: Pembroke Pines Commissioners Approve Domestic Partnership Benefits

Just last year, the Town Council of Palm Beach passed a similar extension, voting to allow benefits for domestic partnerships, including health and dental insurance coverage, bereavement leave, illness in the immediate family leave, family and medical leave, and domestic violence leave.

Last month, the city of Pembroke Pines extended similar benefits to its same-sex married and domestic partner couples.

That city's commissioners unanimously agreed in a 5-0 vote to extend the same benefits to employees in domestic partnerships as those who are married.

The Margate vote was tighter and not without some controversy.

Commissioner Tommy Ruzzano, one of two commissioners that voted against, said he'd rather the motion had gone to voters in a referendum.

Ruzzano argued the economics of the measure, with the benefits likely costing the city around $160,000 a year.

Anthony Caggiano, who gave the other nay vote, agreed with Ruzzano, saying that the costs could run too high for the city.

"We're not some rich city," Caggiano, who plans to run against openly-gay Margate Mayor Lesa Peerman in November, said during the meeting. "This is open to tremendous abuse because roommates could say they are partners for the benefits."

In response to Ruzzano and Caggiano's arguments, Peerman said the decision to extend benefits was not the responsibility for voters. Voters, Peerman said, shouldn't have to decide what benefits employees get.

"Everybody should have the right to take care of the people they love," she said, per the Sun-Sentinel.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph