Oakland considers domestic partner benefit requirements

Bay City News Service
Monday November 26, 2001

Oakland is expected to become the latest Bay Area city to require that companies it does business with provide benefits for the domestic partners of their employees. 

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on an Equal Benefits Ordinance, which would require that city contractors give same-sex couples the same benefits that they give to married ones. 

The ordinance applies to businesses that have contracts with the city worth $25,000 or more. Businesses with property contracts and contracts that are worth less than $25,000 are excluded from the ordinance. 

The city of Oakland already provides benefits for the domestic partners of its employees. 

Domestic partners are defined under state law as two unmarried adults of the same sex who share a common residence and are jointly responsible for each other's living expenses. 

A council committee unanimously approved the ordinance earlier this month. If approved Tuesday, the ordinance would require a second reading to be officially written into the city's charter. 

The city of San Francisco passed a similar ordinance four years ago, although it applies to businesses with contracts of $5,000 or more. 

The ordinance was promptly challenged by United Airlines, which claimed the city was trying to preempt federal regulation, and by an Ohio electric company. 

In September, a federal appeals court rejected the court challenges, marking the second time that the law withstood attack.  

In a recent fourth anniversary report, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission said the airline's challenge could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court if a petition by the Air Transport Association to have the decision reheard is denied.