DOMESTIC PARTNERS COVERAGE: San Francisco Law Upheld
In the first ruling "anywhere in the United States upholding a local domestic partners law," U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken "said San Francisco had the right to invoke its domestic partners law on businesses within the city, but she trimmed the law's scope by limiting the need for some firms to comply with it." The San Francisco Chronicle reports, however, that Friday's ruling "left both sides sharply divided about exactly what her ruling meant" (Epstein, 4/11). The Los Angeles Times reports that "[t]he ruling is the first significant legal hurdle passed by San Francisco's much-watched ordinance, which is unique in the nation and demands that domestic partners of unmarried employees be offered the same benefits extended to married workers' spouses."
High Flying Suit
The dispute arose from a suit filed against the city last May by "[t]wo air transport trade groups" that argued that "airlines are nationwide businesses regulated by federal law and should not be affected by local statutes." Judge "Wilken agreed with the airlines about who can regulate them, but said that San Francisco's ordinance accomplishes 'a legitimate local public interest, to combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation'" (La Ganga/Simon, 4/11). The Chronicle reports that under Wilken's ruling, the scope of the law was limited to "employees who work in San Francisco, on city-owned property elsewhere, or anywhere in the country if their work relates to city contracts."
It's All In The Spin
The two sides disagreed on who really won the suit. Brendan Dolan, an attorney for the airlines, said, "We view this as a complete victory for what we set out to do." But supervisor Tom Amminano, "a driving force behind the law," said, "I am happy as a pig in a poke. The law was left standing" (4/11). The Times reports that "even if other cities do not follow San Francisco's lead, gay rights activists expect more and more corporations to offer domestic benefits voluntarily 'because it's the right thing to do and because it attracts and keeps the best employees,'" said Kim Mills of the Human Rights Campaign. Moreover, Los Angeles Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg said the decision would "embolden" her to research "whether a similar law would make sense for the city" (4/11).