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Pastors miffed about push to award benefits to same-sex couples

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- A push to extend city benefits to same-sex marriage partners is drawing criticism from some area clergy members.

It’s a move Richmond City Council members can’t make unless they get approval from the General Assembly, but the council is trying to lay the groundwork.

Three council members are sponsoring a measure to give city benefits to same-sex couples who were married legally in other states.

Thursday a small group of pastors met on the steps of city hall to voice opposition.

“These misguided members of City Council have forsaken their oath to defend our state constitution and are not only a disgrace, but a disappointment as they defy the will of the good people of Virginia," Rev. Michael Hirsch of Calvary Christian Church stated.

There were also gay rights advocates on hand to applaud city leaders for trying to push this measure forward.

“We appreciate the efforts of City Council. They are educated on the issues. They are not basing decisions on stereotypes or fear mongers or scary thoughts," said Bill Harrison, the Executive Director of the Richmond Gay Community Foundation.

However, Parker Agelasto, a city council member, says the goal is to also extend the benefits to loved ones of city workers whether gay or heterosexual.

In fact, he says 66-percent of major private employers in Virginia already offer this benefit. He says the city wants to be able to do the same in order to attract and retain the best employees.

Richmond City Council could vote on the measure by the end of October.