Broward expands equal-benefits law for domestic partners

November 9, 2011
Miami Herald

Companies doing business with the county must treat married and registered unmarried couples equally under an ordinance unanimously approved Tuesday by the County Commission.

 

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Large companies that do big business with Broward County were told Tuesday they must now provide equal benefits to employees’ domestic partners.

The Broward County Commission unanimously passed an expanded Equal Benefits Ordinance that requires all companies with five or more employees to give give equal healthcare and other family benefits to same-sex and opposite-ex partners in order to qualify for county contracts worth $100,000 or more.

“This is a big win,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, the state’s oldest gay-rights group. “This ordinance puts Broward’s domestic-partner policies among the very strongest in the county. If you want to do business with Broward County, you must treat domestic partners and married employees equally.”

In 2005, Miami Beach became the first city in Florida to pass such a law. Now Broward has become the first county, Pollitzer said.

“Broward County is leading the way in recognizing that treating employees fairly and equally is good for business and good for the community. It’s a standard we hope other counties across the state will follow.”

Pollitzer said his group, along with Dolphin Democrats, GLBT Democratic Caucus, Pride Center and SunServe, and individuals including former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, worked behind the scenes for more than a year to make the ordinance happen.

Pollitzer stressed that the ordinance does not force companies to provide certain benefits, such as healthcare or family leave — but that if they provide benefits to married couples, they must provide the same benefits to unmarried couples who sign up with Broward’s domestic-partner registry.

Broward Mayor Sue Gunzburger sponsored the ordinance, and all other commissioners signed on as co-sponsors. “It was wonderful to hear from everyone there that this was a no-brainer for them,” gay activist Michael Emanuel Rajner said.

The ordinance shows Broward “values all families regardless of your sexual orientation,” said Rajner, a former member of the Broward School Board’s diversity committee.

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