Papillion: State constitution bars city health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses -
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Papillion: State constitution bars city health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses

The City of Papillion stands alone among Sarpy County's four largest governments in deciding that the Nebraska Constitution prevents it from granting health insurance benefits to the spouses of same-sex couples.

Sarpy County and the Cities of Bellevue and La Vista have accepted a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy that grants benefits to same-sex couples regardless of the state in which the couple reside.

Nebraska is among 32 states that have forbidden same-sex marriage, either by statute or constitutional amendment.

Mike Williams, the insurance agent for Bellevue and Sarpy County, said insurance companies across the spectrum are adopting policies similar to the Blue Cross rule.

But Papillion City Administrator Dan Hoins sees a conflict between the policy and the same-­sex marriage ban in the Nebraska Constitution. “If state law changes tomorrow, so will we,” he said.

The City of Omaha is among the city governments that have decided not to provide health care benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees. Douglas County, however, will offer that benefit.

Hoins said the Blue Cross policy exceeds the federal requirements established in June when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov acknowledged the legal question. But he said the problem could be overcome by regarding health benefits as a contractual obligation between the county and the employee.

“It's a really good question that different people might have a different answer to,” he said.

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