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Honoring Marrero's sacrifice

The murder this month of a Tampa police officer revealed a discriminatory clause in the city's pension _ one the City Council appears ready to fix. By removing sexual orientation as a condition for benefits, the city would join responsible employers and pay the tribute it owes to the sacrifice of Officer Lois Marrero.

Marrero was shot by a suspected bank robber, but the woman with whom she shared her life doesn't qualify for her pension. The city's plan grants death benefits to the "widow or widower," meaning that only married heterosexuals qualify as deserving in the eyes of the community Marrero served.

Council member Linda Saul-Sena wants to change the language to allow employees to choose their beneficiary. That's what a benefit is for; it's not supposed to be a tool for government to make value judgments on a person's private life. Hundreds of employers recognize that employees' value is measured by their contributions _ not by their sexual life. The council should endorse a plan at Thursday's meeting to seek a change in state law that gets the pension plan out of the bedroom.

Council Chairman Charlie Miranda has shown an interest in Saul-Sena's plan, and the police union has also expressed support.

The idea is overdue and practical, and removes the city from being embroiled in the larger gay-rights debate. Marrero didn't apply a litmus test to judge which citizens were worthy of protection. She gave her life to the cause of equal treatment for all. The city should honor that courage by following suit.

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