ST. PAUL -- Leaders of one conservative group believe the state is trying to sneak a controversial policy change into state rules designed to help family members of crime victims.
The rule change -- decried Wednesday by the Minnesota Family Council -- would allow homosexual partners or unmarried heterosexual couples to be eligible for the same small grants and counseling services as family members of state employees.
"I think they're trying to sneak something through," said Tom Prichard, the council's president. "They're circumventing the legislative process in my view."
The group already was upset over a proposal by Gov. Jesse Ventura that would grant benefits to same-sex partners of state workers, a move he cast as an effort to attract quality workers. Ventura said he would seek approval from the 2001 Legislature to make the changes.
Prichard said the proposed rule makes an end run around the Legislature.
In one section of the new rule, the term "family members" would be expanded to include "a person in a relationship with the victim of substantial duration with an exclusive mutual commitment similar to that of marriage and who was residing with the victim at the time of the crime."
Ventura's proposal is more limited and would not extend new benefits to heterosexual domestic partners.
The new rule is expected to go before the reparations board in a hearing Thursday.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver said his advice is that the board delay action.
"My sense is, let's hold off while the governor formulates his policy for domestic policies statewide," Weaver said. "My concern is that there be a clear standard."
More than 80 Minnesota companies offer domestic partner benefits, but a 1993 attempt by the city of Minneapolis to do so was struck down by a court ruling stipulating that it violated state public policy "favoring marriage of heterosexual couples."
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