OAKLAND: Extends Domestic Partner Benefits
The Oakland City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to "grant domestic partner benefits to heterosexual city employees." The Oakland Tribune reports that while "Oakland has allowed city employees to register their domestic partnerships" since 1996, regardless of the partners' sexual orientation, medical benefits were only extended to same-sex partners. The council's decision to reverse this "gays only" policy follows a lengthy battle against specific complaints filed by two workers and "considerable pressure from the state labor commissioner and other politicians." The Tribune notes that "Oakland stood virtually alone in insisting that its 'gays only' medical coverage was legal. Thirty-two other California cities offering domestic partner medical benefits cover heterosexual and same-sex couples."
Opinions All Around
"[N]oted Los Angeles attorney Thomas Coleman" represented the two city employees, Mickey Ayyoub and Allan Edwards, bringing an "agenda of universal inclusion" with him from a career built on support of gay-rights issues. He said, "I think that if the council had heard all of this information back in 1996, it would not have done a gay-only plan. There was a lot of misinformation." The council's lone dissenter, John Russo, stated, "Gays and lesbians can't get married, and what the council was trying to do was to remedy that injustice. I think the council got it right the first time" (Wells, 4/24).