Editors' Note: Guest blogger Geoff Kors is the Executive Director of Equality California.
Last night, Santa Monica City Councilmember Richard Bloom introduced an Equal Benefits Ordinance. This ordinance would require any company that contracts with the city of Santa Monica to provide workers who are married or in a domestic partnership with the same benefits. If a company contracted with the city to provide landscaping for a city park, or public transit passes, or any other good or service that falls under the city's purview, all of that company's workers who are in domestic partnerships, as well as their partners, would receive the same benefits as their married colleagues and their spouses.
I applaud Councilmember Bloom for championing this ordinance. It is an important measure that would ensure fairer treatment of thousands of workers. What's more, many of the companies that contract with the city are based or operate outside of California, extending the ordinance's impact across the country.
It's shameful that we're still struggling to ensure that all loving couples are treated the same under the law, but it's true. Until marriage equality is established from coast to coast, we have to keep pressing on with every possible tactic to protect same-sex couples and their families. We have to keep progressing forward on our rights in every way that we can.
The first city in California to create an equal benefits ordinance was San Francisco, an ordinance that I helped to craft. I also advocated for its passage. That was in 1996. Equality California formed a few years later and has been working to pass similar ordinances in other cities and counties. Among the successes are Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley and San Diego, as well as San Mateo County. In 2003, EQCA sponsored a bill authored by then-Assemblymember Christine Kehoe to pass an equal benefits ordinance at the state level, affecting companies that contract with our state government. That bill also passed.
Beyond just protecting workers, equal benefits ordinances show the commitment of California's cities to fighting discrimination. Cities that have passed these ordinances are taking a stand for equality in the very way they do their day-to-day business, setting an example for others to follow.
The Santa Monica ordinance wouldn't dictate which benefits companies have to extend. But it would ensure that if a benefit is offered to married employees and their spouses, it must also be offered to employees who are in a domestic partnership and to their partners.
Equality California Marriage Director Marc Solomon testified in person last night about the importance of this ordinance. The council agreed unanimously to move forward with drafting legislation, and Equality California will be helping them with the draft. Soon this important ordinance should be in place.