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Climbing costs

Same-gender lawsuit far exceeds the cost of city benefits

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Barbara Henson and Kaylynn LaGamma, a same-gender - couple, say Colorado Springs should provide health - benefits to gay and lesbian city workers - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Barbara Henson and Kaylynn LaGamma, a same-gender couple, say Colorado Springs should provide health benefits to gay and lesbian city workers

Legal bills stemming from Colorado Springs City Council's decision to eliminate health coverage for the partners of gay and lesbian city workers have, so far, cost the city more than three times the money it would to provide the benefit.

More than two years ago, 25 of the city's 2,500 workers were expected to apply for the health insurance on behalf of their partners, at a total cost to the city of roughly $6,000 a year.

But in 2003, months after benefits were offered, the City Council voted to pull the plug on the plan. That prompted two same-gender couples to file a discrimination lawsuit about 10 months ago, asking for reinstatement of the benefits.

In its efforts to kill the suit, the city's legal team has tallied 265 hours of work, according to information provided by city officials. Based on average billing rates for attorneys and their legal assistants, this equates to defense spending of approximately $20,205.

Yet despite the rising tally, there have been no signs of settling. The City Attorney's Office recently filed a motion in El Paso County District Court asking a judge to dismiss the case.

Barbara Henson, a former Colorado Springs police dispatcher, and her partner, Kaylynn LaGamma, along with Connie Trujillo, a unit clerk at Memorial Hospital, and her partner, Susan Osorio, filed the class-action suit.

It alleges that City Council discriminated against gays and lesbians, and also contends that local Christian groups swayed Council to cut the benefit.

Before Council voted in 2003, Councilman Richard Skorman, joined by community members, unveiled a plan to fund partner health care for the same-gender employees for three years at no cost to the city.

Henson says she recently quit her job with the police department to become a dispatcher for the Boulder police, because the city of Boulder offers same-gender benefits to partners.

"It's so ridiculous," she says. "This shouldn't be an issue. We're just asking for the same consideration as everyone else with the city."

-- Michael de Yoanna

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