SANTA BARBARA: Domestic Partners Benefits To Be Extended
The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to amend an earlier domestic partners ordinance to include heterosexual couples. According to a city council spokesperson, the ordinance will be put up for adoption next week, after which it can be introduced as a bill (CHL sources, 2/12). In January, the council "passed an ordinance giving health benefits to partners of gay and lesbian city workers." However, "to avoid violating state labor laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the city must extend the benefits to unmarried partners of heterosexual workers too," the Santa Barbara News-Press reports. An "Oakland law providing benefits to same-sex couples, but not heterosexuals, was found to be discriminatory by the state Labor Commissioner's office," the News-Press reports.
Individuals will need to "register with the city as domestic partners" to qualify for the benefits. Joan Kent, the city's administrative services director, said the "annual cost of providing the benefits is estimated to be $11,101 per year," a figure "based on a survey showing that about three percent of employees sign up for domestic partner benefits in cities where such benefits are offered." Earlier this year, labor unions requested domestic partner "benefits for their employees during contract negotiations." The requested benefits will also be "offered to the small number of employees who are not covered by union contracts" (Parks, 2/10).