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California Senate passes bill to boost equal benefits law for LGBT workers

SACRAMENTO – The State Senate today passed legislation that will bar the State of California from entering into contracts in excess of $100,000 with businesses and other entities that deny equal benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees.

The Equal Benefits bill (SB 117), authored by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) and sponsored by Equality California, passed in a 21-15 vote.

The bill now moves to the State Assembly.

In 2003, the state Legislature passed a bill authored by then-Assemblymember Kehoe and sponsored by Equality California that prohibited discrimination in benefits between employees with spouses and employees with registered domestic partners.

“Studies have shown that employees who are treated fairly have higher retention rates and are more productive,” said Jim Carroll, interim executive director of Equality California. “The Equal Benefits bill both advances equality, benefits business and ensures that our precious tax dollars do not subsidize discrimination.”

Beginning in 1996 in San Francisco, Equality California’s leadership has been working with city councils and the California legislature to pass equal benefits ordinances. Since then, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo County, San Diego and Santa Monica have adopted such ordinances. Other cities with similar ordinances, include Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami Beach.

“Providing the same benefits to an employee with a domestic partner, or same-sex or opposite-sex spouse ensures that workers receive equal pay for equal work,” Kehoe said. “California should lead the way for other employers to provide benefits that are non-discriminatory.”

It is estimated that thousands of businesses and other entities now offer equal benefits as a direct result of these laws, including automobile companies, most airlines and many Fortune 500 companies and small businesses.