SAN FRANCISCO: Domestic Partners Policy Targeted By U.S. House
The U.S. House "narrowly approved" a measure last night that would "punish San Francisco for requiring city contractors to offer domestic partnership benefits to their employees," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Rep. Frank Riggs' (R-Windor) amendment to the $93 billion public housing and veterans spending bill "specifically targets San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance." The Chronicle notes that this ordinance requires "organizations doing business with the city to offer health care benefits to gay, lesbian and unmarried partners of their employees, if they provide the same benefits to husbands and wives" (Lochhead, 7/3).
In defending his measure, Riggs said "businesses should not be forced to adopt policies they find morally objectionable" (Washington Post, 7/30). Riggs said he was "taking a stand for the rights of private organizations like Catholic Charities and other groups that contract with San Francisco to adhere to their own moral beliefs." The Chronicle reports that Riggs said "he was outraged that San Francisco would cut off contracts with the Salvation Army to shelter the homeless and help people with AIDS" because the organizations would not extend health benefits to their employees' gay and lesbian partners (7/30). "We should not sanction domestic-partner relationships. The American people want leaders who respect and support the underlying sanctity of marriage," he said.
The Washington Times reports that San Francisco city officials say they could lose as much as $260 million in federal funding if the Riggs measure is enacted, while supporters of the amendment "put the figure closer to $65 million." The measure passed by a two-vote margin, 214-212. Twenty-five Democrats and 189 Republicans supported Riggs, while 33 Republicans joined the opposing Democrats (Scully, 7/30). The Los Angeles Times reports that among California's 52 House representatives, all 29 Democrats voted against Riggs' amendment. These 29 were joined by four Republicans -- Brian Bilbray (San Diego), Tom Campbell (San Jose), Steve Horn (Long Beach) and Jerry Lewis (Redlands) (Lacey, 7/30).
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo County) called Riggs' amendment "a poorly disguised assault on a persecuted minority" (Washington Times, 7/30). The Los Angeles Times reports that Horn and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) circulated a letter to their colleagues calling Riggs' proposal an "irresponsible and draconian attack" on San Francisco (7/30). And Rep. Harry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) said, "I would suggest that if [Riggs] wanted to get involved in the laws adopted by the city of San Francisco, then he should move there and run for the City Council" (Sweeney, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 7/30). Rep. Jerry Lewis, chair of the Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the public housing spending bill, "called the Riggs amendment an unwarranted intrusion in local decision making and urged its defeat," the Chronicle reports. "In this case, in a most fundamental way, local government is reflecting its views of what public policy should be. It is the epitome of what local control is about," Lewis said. The Chronicle notes that Lewis' opposition to Riggs' measure is "crucial" because the "final appropriations bill will be written by a conference committee that must meld the House and Senate versions." With Lewis leading the House GOP in that joint committee and no Senate counterpart of the measure, Riggs' amendment "could easily die," the Chronicle reports (7/30).
The New York Times reports that the House last night "passed another measure perceived as anti-homosexual." By a 231-200 margin, House members approved Rep. Van Hilleary's (R-TN) proposal to "take away $21 million from housing programs for people with AIDS and give it to veterans." Pelosi "said that the passage of the two measures added to evidence of a crusade by conservatives against homosexuals." The overall $94 billion public housing and veterans spending bill passed 259-164 (Seeyle, 7/30).