New law here requires some city service contractors to provide same-sex, married couples equal benefits
Companies doing business with the city will now be required to offer the same benefits to life partners as to spouses, under a bill signed into law on Monday by Mayor Michael Nutter.
“We’re focused for fairness and equality for all,” Nutter said at a special signing ceremony held at City Hall, along with the bill’s author Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.
“The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection has the strongest [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] protections in the region, and quite possibly across the country.”
Under the new law, which will go into affect July 1, 2012, businesses that have contracts worth more than $250,000 with the city will be required to offer life partners the same benefits as they offer spouses.
Those benefits include health insurance, bereavement leave, family medical leave, membership discounts and moving expenses. In order to be eligible for equal benefits, employees must meet the standard of proof for a life partnership.
Adding those benefits would add about 1 percent to the cost of benefits packages for most large companies, according to official estimates while adding about a 20 percent value to benefit packages for an individual employee.
Thirteen other municipalities — states, cities and counties — already have similar legislation. The city of Philadelphia passed its life partners policy in 1998.
Unlike the late 1990s when the city passed its life partner bill, Brown noted that the bill passed unanimously and without opposition in City Council last week.
“Twenty years ago the Catholic church waged a campaign against two of our colleagues — councilmen James Kenney and Frank DiCicco — who supported pro-LGBT legislation,” she said. “Here we stand two decades later, and not one single person appeared to testify against the Equal Benefits Ordinance.”
Brown the said the law was a personal matter for her.
“I spent many years in the dance arts community, and I got a chance to make lots of friends who were members of the LGBT community,” she said. “I got a chance to see them, unfortunately, treated awfully.”
That prompted a lifelong desire to want to help their cause, she said.
“It deeply sensitized me to the challenges that many in the community face,” said Brown. “So to now be in a place on the public policy side, to register my voice and make a small difference, I welcome that.”
The legislation was lauded by gay activists and human rights officials.
“The purpose of the law is simple — equal treatment,” said Rue Landau. “Its passage would fall in line with the strong history of commitment the City has to promoting equality for LGBT community.”
Eligible city service contractors must notify all employees of this extended benefit provision. If a contractor fails to comply with the new law, the city can void the contract. In addition, the contractor may be suspended or barred from bidding on or participating in City contracts for up to three years. Under certain circumstances, the City of Philadelphia can exempt a service contractor from compliance.