Volume 74, Number 9 | June 30 - July 6, 2004

Council overrides Bloomberg to gays and lesbians’ benefit

By Elizabeth O’brien

Leaders of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community cheered the City Council’s vote by 41-4 on Monday to override the mayor’s veto of a bill that would require companies doing business with the city to extend health insurance and other benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.

The Equal Benefits Bill would apply to companies that have contracts of $100,000 or more with the city. New York City’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has advocated for such a law since San Francisco passed the country’s first such legislation in 1997.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg originally vetoed the legislation on June 3, after the Council had overwhelmingly approved it.

“I had no doubt that the veto would be overturned,” said openly lesbian Councilmember Margarita Lopez, who worked on the legislation. Councilperson Christine Quinn, also an out-lesbian, was the bill’s main sponsor.

Advocates said this legislation would make a measurable difference in the L.G.B.T. community.
“This one action will have a more tangible impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families than any measure ever passed by the City Council,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, in a statement.

The bill faces a likely legal challenge from the Bloomberg administration. The mayor was quoted as saying that the City Council should not use its contracting policies to push social issues, regardless of the Council’s support of the issues.

While he has not clearly stated his position on same-sex marriage, to the frustration of many, Bloomberg has a relatively progressive record on L.G.B.T. issues. The financial information company he founded, Bloomberg LP, offers benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.

Lopez said she did not understand why the mayor would try to block the law.

“That is very puzzling to me, because I really think the mayor is a decent man,” Lopez said.

In the absence of legal challenges, the Equal Benefits Law will take effect in 120 days.


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