Proposal Requires Partner Benefits

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe city officials are working on an ordinance that would require that contractors hired by the city provide domestic partner benefits.

“It’s an equity issue, plain and simple,” said Councilor Patti Bushee, sponsor of the measure.

Bushee introduced the proposal last week, and the language is still being drafted. It’s unclear how far-reaching the ordinance will be.

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The city could, for instance, just require that contractors provide a worker’s domestic partner with the same benefits as the company offers a married spouse.

Or the city might mandate that contractors offer benefits to all employees and their partners.

“The City Attorney’s Office is working with Councilor Bushee to prepare an ordinance that is based on the best practices of other municipalities,” City Attorney Geno Zamora said.

Separately, Bushee’s measure would also put into law an already-existing city policy that requires that the municipality offer benefits to domestic partners.

Bushee said she worked with city personnel to create the policy almost 18 years ago, soon after she started her tenure on the council.

“It was pretty easy and not very costly and the right thing to do,” she said.

Bushee said the issue came up again as she worked on an ordinance that would amend the city’s community workforce agreement law to require, among other things, that CWA contractors provide domestic partners benefits.

The CWA ordinance mandates that all workers on city building projects costing $500,000 or more be union members, at least for the duration of the project, and Bushee said she was surprised to learn that at least some unions don’t offer benefits to domestic partners.

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“Domestic partner benefits are important to the LGBT community but they’re equally important to those that chose not to marry and are able to marry,” she said. “It’s a combination of folks that I hope will be captured by this.”

The measure is co-sponsored by Mayor David Coss. Coss said the local unions in New Mexico are supportive of the ordinance.

“I just think we’re trying to promote equity in our programs, equal treatment for all, and domestic partner benefits is a really important piece of that,” Coss said.

Bushee said she also wants to address deficiencies pinpointed by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s recent Municipal Equality Index. Santa Fe ranked below average on the index’s survey of policies and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

Bushee said she plans to bring forward additional related legislation, including the formation of a city Human Rights Commission.

More and more cities are offering domestic partner benefits and requiring the same of companies they do business with, Zamora noted.

“To require these benefits from contractors is legally permissible, and we are looking to follow the best practices of others that have the same benefit requirements,” he said.

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