The DP benefits will be offered to unmarried couples living together in a long-term relationship, whether of the same sex or opposite sex. The plan will be administered by the township's insurer, Anthem, at no additional, immediate cost to taxpayers.
"It is the right thing to do," Hobbs said. "Firefighters deserve the same rights and benefits as everyone else when they put their lives on the line to protect the public." He added, "My aunt is a lesbian and I'm well aware of what she has had to endure because of her sexual orientation."
Lawrence Township will become what I believe is one of the first units of government in the state of Indiana to offer DP benefits. I'm told the City of Bloomington has offered DP benefits for the past several years. Several of the state's universities, including IU, Purdue, Ball State and ISU also offer DP benefits. Those benefits were considered in jeopardy earlier this year as the legislature debated SJR-7, which would have barred the state constitution or any state law from conferring any legal incidents of marriage upon unmarried couples. The state's leading businesses, including Cummins, Eli Lilly, Wellpoint, Dow Agro Sciences and Emmis Communications all opposed the amendment, in part, because of the negative impact it would potentially have on the state economically.
There may be some skeptics and critics who might suggest Hobbs' announcement is related to his arrest a week ago for driving while intoxicated and is an effort to divert attention away from that story. Hobbs in fact began working on a DP benefit plan for Lawrence Township employees several months ago. Hobbs has acknowledged he has a drinking problem and is receiving counseling for his problem he tells AI.
Hobbs should be applauded for showing foresight and leadership on this issue. Let's hope other township trustees and units of government follow his lead. Efforts by former City-County Councilor Karen Horseman (D) to provide DP benefits to Indianapolis' city and county employees fell flat a few years ago. Her successor, Scott Keller (R), has pledged to renew efforts to pass DP benefits if he is re-elected to a second term this year. Keller co-authored Indianapolis' human rights ordinance with City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes, which was enacted last year.