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social sciences

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Anti-discrimination Statutes and Ordinances  
page: 1  2  

In 1997 San Francisco became the first city to pass an "equal benefits" ordinance. It requires all contractors doing business with the city to offer employees in a domestic partnership the same benefits offered to married employees. According to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, over 50,000 employees of contractors doing business with the city have taken advantage of the domestic partner benefits the contractors now must offer.

After the San Francisco ordinance was passed, United Airlines brought suit against the city, claiming the ordinance violated the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. This suit eventually was settled and United now offers domestic partner benefits. Another suit, brought by S.D. Meyers Inc., an Ohio electrical company, was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit in July 2003. Meyers has said it is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. It believes that "giving health insurance to unmarried partners would be approving a lifestyle contrary to its Christian principles."

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The San Francisco ordinance has become the model for other cities to follow. Six other cities have passed "equal benefits" ordinances (Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Tumwater, Washington). According to HRC, these ordinances collectively are responsible for more than 4200 companies instituting domestic partner benefits.

Some courts have held that local anti-discrimination ordinances cannot create rights enforceable in state court since this would exceed the city or county's home rule powers. A growing number of courts, however, have concluded that local ordinances can be enforced in state court.

Anti-discrimination ordinances are subject to repeal by referendum. From the time of Anita Bryant and her notorious "Save the Children" campaign in Florida in the 1970s, opponents of lesbian and gay civil rights have had some success in repealing anti-discrimination ordinances through referendum. The tide finally appears to be turning. As HRC notes, in 2002, referenda to repeal local ordinances "failed everywhere they were able to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot."

State and local anti-discrimination laws have made a real difference in the lives of millions of lesbians and gay men. Activists are now pressing other states and cities, and Congress, to pass such laws in the continuing effort to protect glbtq people from discrimination.

Gregory A. Johnson

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social sciences >> Overview:  New York City

Off and on over two centuries, New York City has also reigned as the capital of homosexual, transgender, and queer life in America.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

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social sciences >> Overview:  Teachers

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social sciences >> Bonauto, Mary

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social sciences >> Bryant, Anita

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The Empire State Pride Agenda, which lobbies New York governments at both state and local levels for equal rights, is recognized as among the strongest statewide glbtq political organizations in the United States.

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social sciences >> Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

The largest glbtq political organization in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign has emerged as the leading national organization representing glbtq concerns.

social sciences >> National Center for Lesbian Rights

Founded in 1977 as the Lesbian Rights Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights is a public interest law firm committed to advancing the civil and human rights of glbtq people through litigation, advocacy, and education.


Cheever, Julia. "Court Upholds SF Equal Benefits Law." Bay City News (July 29, 2003):

Dahir, Mubarak. "Gays vs. The Transgendered." The Advocate (March 19, 2000): 17.

Eskridge, William N. Equality Practice, Civil Unions and the Future of Gay Rights. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Gordon, Rachel. "City Assessor Announces Extension of Domestic Partnership Rights Policy." San Francisco Chronicle (June 27, 2003): 3.

Leonard, Arthur S. "New Mexico Legislative/Executive Trifecta: Simultaneous Measures on Discrimination, Hate Crimes, and Partner Benefits; State High Court Recognizes Consortium Claim." Lesbian and Gay Law Notes (May 2003): 65.

"The State of the Workplace for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans 2002."


    Citation Information
    Author: Johnson, Gregory A.  
    Entry Title: Anti-discrimination Statutes and Ordinances  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated August 10, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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