I'm a little behind the curve, but kudos to Easton, Pennsylvania for doing what Allegheny County leadership won't by extending domestic partner benefits to your employees. Yes, I mention Allegheny County because I was genuinely shocked to read that only 5 municipalities across Pennsylvania have addressed this equal rights issue, especially given how many private sector employers offer these as a matter of routine. Allegheny County is woefully behind the ball with regard to the economic development indicator.
We should note that the Commonwealth provides domestic partner benefits. Truth be told, this is only half the battle. If the climate isn't LGBTQ-friendly in the workplace, people aren't going to out themselves to access these benefits. Another somewhat shocking fact is that not every public employee union affiliated with the City of Pittsburgh has added domestic partner benefits to their contracts. More than fifteen years after the City first offered them. What the heck is going on in those labor halls that they either don't have LGBTQ members OR those who are there aren't being taken care of? That's a black mark on labor.
It is imperative that we continue to work for employees paid with our tax dollars to access health insurance and other benefits for their families. That's a given in my book. However, we must also continue to push for LGBTQ-friendly ordinances — and the statewide ordinance — to provide workplace protections. The two go hand in hand.
I don't have a link, so I'll publish the press release in its entirety courtesy of the PA Diversity Network. One thing I did find on their website is a running list of LGBTQ municipal legislation. That's worth a read.
May 25th, 2011, Easton, PA — A standing ovation concluded the vote of Easton City Council tonight as they unanimously endorsed legislation providing equal benefits to same sex partners of City staff. The ordinance, only the 5th in Pennsylvania, was sponsored by Councilperson Mike Fleck. Not one member of the public spoke against the ordinance. The ordinance will take effect on January 1st, and will join Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in providing same-sex benefits.
Pennsylvania Diversity Network’s Adrian Shanker and Liz Bradbury worked with Fleck for a year and half to prepare the legislation and garner support. Shanker stated, “I am so pleased by the unanimous and bipartisan support for relationship recognition for same sex couples in Easton. Easton now joins the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies in providing the best HR policies for their employees.”
Bradbury, who also worked in 2002 to pass Easton’s non-discrimination law, commented, “Easton has come a long way, and I am thrilled that I can recommend it as a progressive place to live or work for the LGBT community.”
Fleck introduced this ordinance because “[he] was elected to represent all the citizens of the West Ward, many of whom are LGBT and want to know that their City treats their community as equals.” The City of Easton is one of the few in the Commonwealth of PA that has an openly gay elected official, City Councilmember El Warner. Warner commented, “I am very proud of my colleagues on Council for coming together to pass this important Civil Rights bill. The time for it is now.” The legislation was strongly supported by Mayor Sal Panto.
Mayor Panto has scheduled a public ceremony to sign the legislation on June 6th at 12:30pm in Centre Square, Easton. Rain location is City Hall. Meanwhile, the neighboring City of Bethlehem, has scheduled a final vote on the proposed non-discrimination law on June 7th.