This past Tuesday, July 23rd, the Wilton Manors City Commission voted 4-1 to establish a tax equity reimbursement program sponsored by Vice Mayor Julie Carson. This program will help close the gap of inequity for the few city employees in a domestic partnership, regardless of their domestic partner's gender.
Unlike the benefits extended to a legally married couple, the federal government considers the portion of the employer-sponsored benefits extended to an employee's domestic partner as taxable income. Based on a formula that accounts for the pre-tax cost of these health benefits, the city is offering these employees an annual $750 stipend.
In an attempt to thwart this measure, which has been adopted by other Florida cities, Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick complained at the meeting that no city employee had yet requested this benefit. Public comment is not permitted at meetings for regular agenda items, but if it were, my response to Mayor Resnick would have been that this is a chance for the city commission to demonstrate strong leadership on issues of equity and fairness and attract a more competitive workforce to serve its residents.
When you consider the large LGBT population in Wilton Manors and some of Broward County's thirty other cities, it prompts individuals such as myself to question whether our cities value all their residents, employees and business patrons equally.
While some positive measures have been implemented by some cities, Broward County Government, the school board, and the county's constitutional officers, a lot more work is needed to authentically value LGBT people in public policy. And cities such as Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale and others should be leading the way.
Last year, Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Carson sponsored a think tank to discuss a series of LGBT issues, including equitable local ordinances. As part of this dialogue, Vice Mayor Carson -- with the support of Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Alexander Lewy -- has requested the Broward League of Cities to establish a work group to educate the representatives of Broward's 31 cities on best practices and how to better value LGBT employees, residents, families and business patrons. Hopefully the Broward League of Cities will embrace this concept and recognize that LGBT people are a valuable part of Broward's multi-cultural community.
A formal request to establish a tax equity reimbursement program, including the adoption of Broward County's Equal Benefits Ordinance, has been made of Sheriff Scott J. Israel at the Broward Sheriff's Office.
As Broward County resident, I applaud the efforts of Vice Mayor Julie Carson and other elected officials who have done so much to advocate for all citizens. As an advocate myself, I wonder: when will all of Broward County's 31 municipalities authentically value their residents' needs and ensure their policies treat LGBT people fairly and equally?