Allentown to be first Lehigh Valley municipality to offer domestic partner benefits?

From the Morning Call

Allentown may soon become the first municipality in the Lehigh Valley to offer medical benefits to partners of gay employees, whether active or retired.

Under a domestic partnership bill before council, partners of gay employees would be eligible for health benefits as long as the couple can illustrate they live together and are jointly responsible for household finances.

Many private companies and institutions in the Lehigh Valley, such as Muhlenberg College and The Morning Call, offer similar benefits, as does the city of Philadelphia.

It appears it might make headway with some support from the local council and a sort of generalish “no comment” from the Mayor

The bill, introduced on Dec. 15 and slated for a final vote as early as next month, has broad support among council members, who say gay couples deserve the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

“This is about fairness and equality,” said council President Michael D'Amore, one of the driving forces behind the bill. “Gay employees' inability to get married in this state should not preclude them from getting health benefits.”

Mayor Ed Pawlowski has yet to reveal his position on the measure, saying it's “under review.”

This is the argument I've made over and over with regard to Allegheny County.  There are hard-working public servants who are treated like second-class citizens by our County government simply  because they are gay.  What's worse is that government is the bastion of health enforcement through the County Health Department so they should be setting the bar high, not cowering behind labor-management relations as a cover for a failure to act.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ persons will still be held to a higher standard of proof than heterosexual couples, many of whom are not even required to produce a marriage license for some employers.

In order to qualify for the benefits, the employee and partner must provide the city with at least three documents that show that they are living together and are jointly responsible for basic living expenses. Acceptable documents include mortgages, leases, utility bills and joint bank accounts, according to the bill.

This is a sore spot with me.  It can be challening to meet these criteria, based on the ignorance of the utility companies or simply the frustrating number of hurdles.  Verizon told me they had to actually literally disconnect all of our services, open a new account, CHARGE US to keep our number and come out to the house to get the DSL reconnected.  That's a lot of inconvenience (and expense) to meet a standard. 

I think one form of proof and a sworn affidavit is more reasonable.  Yes, it will be abused just like heterosexual couples abuse marital benefits every day in much, much greater numbers. 

Still, it is progress for Allentown. Here's hoping Allentown's leadership inspires Allegheny County. 



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