Equality California
Senator Kehoe Introduces New Equal Benefits Bill for LGBT Workers
January 20, 2011

Sacramento – Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) today introduced Senate Bill 117, which strengthens the state’s current equal benefits law. Sponsored by Equality California, the bill adds a provision barring the state from entering into contracts with businesses and other entities that do not provide equal benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

In 2003, the State Legislature passed a bill authored by then-Assemblymember Kehoe and sponsored by Equality California that prohibited discrimination in benefits between employees with spouses and employees with registered domestic partners.

“We must strengthen our current equal benefits law because thousands of same-sex couples have legally married since 2003, and it is vital that they are protected under this law,” said Geoff Kors, Equality California Executive Director. “This legislation would ensure fairness and equality for workers and could mean the difference between having access to vital benefits such as health insurance or not.”

Beginning in 1996 in San Francisco, Equality California leadership has been working with city councils and the California legislature to pass equal benefits ordinances. Since then, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo County and San Diego have adopted such ordinances, as did the State of California in 2003 when Equality California sponsored a bill introduced by then-Assemblymember Christine Kehoe. Other cities with similar ordinances include Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Miami Beach.

“SB117 is in keeping with California’s long tradition of providing equal benefits for all,” said Senator Kehoe. “It levels the playing field for companies that do business with the state. The bill ensures that employees who work for businesses that contract with the state are not discriminated against because they are married to a same-sex spouse.”

It is estimated that thousands of businesses and other entities now offer equal benefits as a direct result of these laws, including automobile companies, most airlines and many Fortune 500 companies and small businesses.

SB 117 is expected to have its first policy committee hearing in March or April.