DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS: Rulings Bolster San Fran Law
A federal judge yesterday issued two rulings that affirmed the legality of San Francisco's domestic-partners benefits law, which stipulates that the city will not contract with any business that does not offer such benefits. In one case, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilkin dismissed a suit attempting to have the law thrown out. S.D. Myers Inc., a private firm in Ohio, won a contract to service the city's hydroelectric equipment in 1997, but lost the deal after it refused to comply with San Francisco's law, citing moral objections to homosexuality. Jay Sekulow, attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented the company, said, "We're disappointed but not surprised. Ultimately this case is going to wind its way through the court of appeals, and I think we will carry the day" (Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 5/28). Dennis Aftergut, the city's chief deputy city attorney, said, "This is a case about equal pay for equal work, and the court has given us a loud judicial 'yes.'"
Fly for Free
In the second ruling, Wilkin "clarified an earlier ruling that said airlines operating at San Francisco International Airport do not have to provide such economic benefits as pension rights and health coverage to the domestic partners of its employees at the airport," as airlines are federally regulated. She ruled that while the airlines do not have to provide health benefits, they must provide "such noneconomic benefits as bereavement leave and free or discount flights." Air Transport Association spokesperson Sam Singer said the organization was not satisfied and hinted at an appeal. He said, "Judge Wilken's 1998 ruling gave us 99.1% of what we sought. Yesterday the judge threw the city a bone. We're going for 100%" (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/28). Jennifer Pizer, managing attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said yesterday's modest victory should "spur Los Angeles to follow San Francisco's example" and pass a similar law (Times, 5/28).