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Judge throws out Springfield civil union benefits vote
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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A Circuit Court Judge has ruled that a Springfield city vote in favor of extending benefits to civil union spouses violated the open meetings act.

Bruce Rushton, a reporter for the Illinois Times filed suit in January after the Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee held a closed-door vote over extending the insurance benefits. The committee had previously voted against extending the benefits amid outcry from Illinois LGBT rights groups.

Judge Brian Otwell ruled in favor of Rushton, stating that the committee was a public committee and was therefore obligated to hold open meetings.

The ruling throws out the committee's reversal on civil union benefits.

The Civil Rights Agenda ( TCRA ) announced the ruling in a press release. TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez said that a delay in voting could mean that benefits will not be available in March, when the city's fiscal year begins.

"Although we are very supportive of the Open Meetings Act, it is unfortunate that this ruling has the effect of invalidating the City of Springfield's decision to grant benefits to city workers in civil unions," said Martinez in a statement.

TCRA called on the committee to act immediately to ensure that civil union spouses are offered benefits by March.

The committee initially voted against extending the benefits because actuarial projection estimated a cost to the city of $725,000. The committee argued that its initial vote was legal because the city is self-insured. However, no city employee in a civil union had inquired about the benefits, and a revised projection put the cost at $66,000.

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