Kraus proposes same-sex benefits requirement for larger contractors

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Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus has sponsored legislation that would require companies with city contracts over $250,000 to provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners.

The legislation was introduced last week and was due to come up for discussion and a preliminary vote Wednesday, but it was held when an attorney with the city's law department could not make the council meeting.

Mr. Kraus said the legislation is as much about equality as it is about attracting the best talent.

"The whole point of doing this kind of legislation is about creating a broad-based, diversified workforce," Mr. Kraus said. "We want to attract the best and the brightest."

Mr. Kraus' bill was introduced just a week after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, opening the door for federal recognition of same-sex marriages in states that allow it. But he said the timing of the bill was coincidental.

Nonetheless, recent change signifies that the public is embracing equality, he said. He anticipated the bill would pass without a hitch.

Under the law, contractors would be required to treat the domestic partners of their employees as they would the spouses of their employees, extending dental, vision and medical benefits. Partners seeking benefits under the law would have to prove they meet the definition of "domestic partner" laid out in city code. They would not, however, have to be registered as domestic partners with the city.

Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation, says the law shows the city is a welcoming place and could help attract new residents to the region.

The bill includes a number of exceptions, including for contractors in which collective bargaining agreements could get in the way of extending benefits. The law would also not apply to contractors that are "bona fide religious organizations" where extending benefits to same-sex partners could violate their beliefs.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published July 10, 2013 1:45 PM


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