An effort by St. Louis mayor Francis Slay to get the spiraling cost of firefighter pensions under control also allow the same sex-partners of city firefighters to get survivor benefits if their partner is killed in the line of duty.
"This is something that could not be done at the state level, would not be done at the state level, which is another reason we want to get local control of the firefighter pensions here in St. Louis," Slay said.
The provision will be added to a controversial firefighter pension reform proposal that aldermen will vote on for the first time on Thursday. The biggest fight has been over a provision removing the requirement that any changes to the benefits for firefighters get approval in Jefferson City. Slay wants to "opt-out" of the current system, and implement a new one that increases the retirement age and the amount that firefighters have to pay into the system, among other changes.
He says the domestic partner benefits are not an effort to sway opponents of the overall reform.
"We're doing this because it's the right thing to do, and it's consistent with that we've been doing since I've been in office, and even before that as a city," Slay said. "We're a city that welcomes people with different lifestyles. The LGBT community is very, very important to us."
To be eligible for survivor benefits, a firefighter and his or her same-sex partner would have to be on the city’s domestic partner registry. They would also have to have some form of economic interdependence, like joint property ownership or joint bank accounts.