ASHEVILLE — Buncombe County's Board of Commissioners has approved providing health and other benefits to domestic partners of county employees.
The four Democrats on the board voted in favor of the benefits Tuesday evening, while the three Republicans voted no.
The board heard from the public before the vote.
The proposed policy would be "degrading the importance of marriage and family," said the Rev. Cody Sturgill.
But Patrick Summers of Asheville said the policy is not about religion or marriage.
"This is about the fact that we have employees who are not getting the same benefits as their straight counterparts," Summers said.
The county's Diversity and Inclusion Committee had suggested extending health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, family medical leave and other leave benefits to employees in long-term same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partnerships.
To qualify, workers would have to have been in a relationship for at least a year and share a home and financial responsibility for one another and intend to do so indefinitely.