Morality and money took center stage at the Sun City West Fire District workshop Tuesday as residents opposed to the new domestic partners benefits policy urged board members to reverse their position.
Board members Jack Meyer, Bill Hamel and Russell “Smitty” Smith listened to the comments that invoked morality, money and God.
With approximately 40 people in attendance, the board gave everyone an opportunity to speak. Seventeen spoke with the majority in favor of getting rid of the domestic partners policy. Because the issue was not on the agenda, board members could not respond.
The rallying of people to the workshop was done by a group of residents who encouraged others to send emails, call board members or attend the fire district workshop to voice their opinion.
David W. Owen started out complimenting the firefighters and paramedics for their outstanding job but said he is unhappy with the action the fire board took in adopting the policy. He said there is no binding contract for partners to stay together.
“It seems some in the fire district board feel they need to be progressive and partisan by being trendsetters with a policy I believe the majority of us seniors do not approve of.”
Owen said the board should be more concerned with fire department operations and cutting costs. The partners policy would, he said, increase the taxes paid by seniors on fixed incomes. He said he wants the policy rescinded because it undermines the moral fiber of the community.
The board voted in October in favor of the policy with two votes by David Wilson and Smith. Jack Meyer, who participated in the meeting by telephone, abstained. Bill Hamel and Dusty Rhodes were not present.
Paul W. Preston also thanked everyone for the job they perform but opposed the policy for moral and economic reasons.
David Hoffman said he loves gay people “enough to tell them the lifestyle they’re living is going to bring them destruction.” He asked the board to “be a real friend to the gay community and vote no on the domestic partnerships.”
Opposed to same-sex marriage, Ray Caldwell said that most people regardless of the sexual identity have a human need for a relationship; but taxpayers are against paying domestic partners benefits to “couples who are so lacking in commitment to one another that they chose not to make their relationship legally binding, yet expect we taxpayers to support their freedom of choice.”
Bill Curley researched Sun City West before moving into the community and mentioned the firefighters and medical facilities. “I have no personal religious convictions or agenda influencing or dictating my actions” and he said he doesn’t believe such an agenda belongs at the table when making public policy.
He added that employees of the fire district are mature and continually show enough responsibility to handle residents’ lives and property in an emergency. “If they are going to save your life or house, is a concerned citizen really going to first ask if they are married, partnered, and is it with Adam or Steve?”
Fortune 500 companies are approving domestic partner benefits, Curley said, “and with Boomers coming in, they’re used to it.”
Ken Tischer disagreed. “This nation was founded under God. God does not condone homosexuality. He loves the people who are involved, but not the act.”
Sun City West doesn’t want to be punished because of the homosexual firefighters and Tischer said he loves the firefighters and respects them, but they just made a bad choice. “We don’t need change. We need moral law,” Tischer said.
Ramona Boon could barely speak from emotion. “We love firefighters.” She said she wants the policy amended to give benefits to lawful marriages.
Dennis Lake said “the opposition who’s been here in force, needs to get its head out of the ’60s and into the 21st century.”
Pastor David Mills asked for a show of hands on “who’s a Christian?” He opposes the policy because it “recognizes a relationship I am morally against and grants the participants the same benefits as a legally married couple.”
Patricia Shanholtzer said there is no difference in paying the benefits for the spouses of 83 employees versus 83 employees with some married and some in long-term relationships.
She reminded everyone the fire department not only puts out fires, they show up when residents fall, don’t feel well, have an accident, a heart attack, a stroke. “They come when we die. They come professionally. They come with calm and with reason. They bring us a sense of security when they come. They provide solace in a time of grief. They provide comfort in a time of anxiety.”
Shanholtzer asked: “And who, among you, is going to ask them before they treat you, what their lifestyle is? None of you.”
The policy issue will be discussed at the 9 a.m. March 18 workshop by the whole board.