Lakeland Same-sex couples who have been legally married in states where marriage equality is legal will be recognized by the City of Lakeland.
In a 5-2 vote on June 2, Lakeland commissioners approved expanding healthcare coverage to same-sex spouses of city employees.
The vote only affects the spouses of employees with valid marriage licenses. Commissioners declined the expansion of benefits to unmarried same-sex partners of city employees—the same result as a 2012 vote.
A large group of residents spoke both for and against the expansion. Commissioners had three choices: Extend health care benefits to legally married same-sex spouses with marriage certificates from one of the 19 states that have marriage equality; extend benefits to all same-sex couples in committed relationships; or extend health care benefits to any employee in a domestic partnership, regardless of orientation.
The only two dissenting votes in providing legal spouses of same-sex couples benefits came from Mayor Howard Wiggs and Commissioner Phillip Walker.
The city considered the move because of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex couples legally married in states providing marriage certificates. The changes in the IRS tax code also prompted the vote.
According to the Lakeland Ledger, expanding the benefits could cost the city $110,000 in the upcoming budget year. Those changes won’t take effect until 2015.