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Ct. Same-Sex Partner Benefits Ruled

February 2, 2000

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The state would be required to offer health benefits to employees in same-sex relationships under a ruling Tuesday by an arbitrator.

The ruling applies only to gay couples and does not affect employees in unmarried, opposite-sex ``domestic partner″ living arrangements. It will take effect unless a two-thirds majority of one house of the Legislature determines there is not enough money to pay the benefit.

Similar benefits are offered to state employees in New York, California ,Oregon and Vermont.

Arbitrator Roberta Golick estimated the change would cost Connecticut $1.3 million to $1.5 million per year. The overall state personnel costs are about $2.8 billion.

The Legislature begins its session Feb. 9 and has 30 days to act.

State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said Tuesday that the state is running an estimated budget surplus of more than $240 million.

``I don’t think we’ll have a vote to overturn this decision,″ said Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, D-Stamford.

Connecticut and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which negotiates the pension and health benefits of about 43,000 employees, took the issue before a mediator last fall.

Gov. John G. Rowland’s administration had opposed the proposal as too expensive and subject to abuse.

``You can’t just say we have the money for this because we have a surplus this year,″ said Marc Ryan, Rowland’s budget chief. ``It doesn’t mean that the money will be there in the future.″

Dan Livingston, chief negotiator for the union coalition, said the decision ``simply recognizes the that the crucial need for working families to have decent health and pension coverage doesn’t disappear simply because the families are headed by same-sex couples.″

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