- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Starkville officials are now saying they won’t let city employees buy health insurance coverage for unmarried domestic partners, including those of the same sex.

Aldermen voted 4-2 Tuesday night to delete part an insurance plan they approved two weeks ago.

After the original approval, a gay-rights group praised Starkville for becoming the first Mississippi city to offer insurance coverage for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender partners of municipal employees.

Under the new plan, city employees can buy coverage for a husband or wife, but not for an unmarried partner of the same or opposite sex.

Mayor Parker Wiseman said he will veto the latest decision. But, for now, aldermen have enough votes to block a veto and let the new policy take effect when the city’s budget year begins Oct. 1.

Republican Alderman Ben Carver told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday that he and his colleagues didn’t have full information about insurance options the first time they voted. Carver blames the Democratic mayor for that.

“He’s for the LGBT agenda,” Carver said of Wiseman. “That’s fine, but he needs to be open and transparent with the board.”

Wiseman said in a separate interview with AP that he did not conceal information from aldermen. An agenda from the Sept. 2 board meeting, posted on the city’s website, includes information about insurance options but does not mention same-sex partners.

“This was not made an LGBT issue because it wasn’t an LGBT issue,” Wiseman said Wednesday. “It was about providing better insurance coverage to the loved ones of our employees. The sad thing is, some of our employees may have lost the opportunity to have their loved ones covered.”

Wiseman has appeared in Human Rights Campaign promotional brochures as a supporter of the group’s goals of securing equal legal treatment for LGBT people. In January, HRC praised Wiseman and the Starkville Board of Aldermen for adopting a resolution saying the city would not tolerate any form of discrimination. Several other Mississippi cities have adopted similar resolutions since then.

Carver said Wednesday that aldermen “were not given proper documentation” before the anti-discrimination resolution was presented to the board in January.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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