Utah lawmakers discuss logistics of extending benefits to same-sex couples

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It may have been the most sedate same-sex marriage discussion in the history of the Utah State Capitol building.

The House and Senate Interim Committee on Retirement and Independent Entities learned how the Utah Retirement System (URS) and the Public Employees' Health Plan (PEHP) are implementing benefits for same-sex spouses of current and former state employees.

"There are 51 active employees who have covered a same-sex dependent spouse and one retiree couple," said Dee Larsen, counsel for URS and PEHP.

Larsen said PEHP has 20,000 beneficiaries, which means about one in 400 enrollees have asked for same-sex partner benefits.

The lawmakers asked if the addition of same-sex spouses was adding cost to the system and did not get a solid answer.

Olsen said premium costs to the state would increase but there may be "offsets" and, "additional analysis is needed."

The committee took no time to talk about their opinions on same-sex marriage, but Representative Rich Cunningham, a Republican from South Jordan, attended out of interest in the issue.

"Obviously the state of Utah is not happy with the federal government," Cunningham said. "But based on the laws and what's going on, we're going to live with it until things change."

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