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Two cities in North Carolina are on the brink of beginning historic debates about the role of government in supporting equality and monitoring the private lives of their employees. Early next week, the Asheville City Council is set to debate providing domestic partnership benefits to city employees. Newly elected city council member Gordon Smith has long championed this policy, and he along with the two other new members of council are supportive of the policy. Smith only needs to convince one more member of council to support domestic partnerships, and with several sitting members of council already on the record leaning in favor of the policy, it’s not a matter of if the measure will pass, but by how much.

Providing domestic partnership benefits for city employees is a no-brainer. Not only is it the fair and just thing to do, it makes the city of Asheville more competitive when searching for new hires. Already several cities and counties provide these benefits, and it’s not hard to imagine that a highly qualified woman who identified as a lesbian would choose a job in Durham or Chapel Hill if her partner would not receive basic benefits if she accepted a job in Asheville.

While the city of Asheville is finally moving into the age of wisdom, Wake County is taking a step backward in foolishness by considering not covering abortion in their health plan for city employees. Recently the city of Apex (also in Wake County) decided to no longer cover abortion services in their health insurance plan for city employees, and it appears that other municipalities in North Carolina are now considering a similar action. The ridiculousness of this plan is appalling. Could you imagine the uproar if city leaders decided to arbitrarily cut another benefit, like dental coverage or the co-pay for the flu vaccination? City and county leaders in Wake County are throwing women’s health under the bus for political gain. Let’s hope that Wake County leaders don’t make the same foolish decision as their counterparts in Apex.

Cross Posted at BlueNC: http://www.bluenc.com/tale-two-cities

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