Montgomery Council to Consider Bill That Would Provide Equal Benefits to
Same Sex Domestic Partners of Employees of County Contractors
Councilmember Navarro Introduces Legislation That Would Apply to
Employees Working on Certain County Contracts
ROCKVILLE, Md., November 3, 2009—Montgomery County District 4 Councilmember Nancy Navarro today introduced before the Council an “equal benefits” bill that would extend to employees of many contractors and subcontractors performing work for the County the same benefits already granted to County employees.
On Nov. 2, Councilmember Navarro was joined in Rockville by other supporters of the legislation. Councilmember President Phil Andrews, Vice President Roger Berliner and Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Duchy Trachtenberg are co-sponsors of the legislation. The equal benefits bill also has the support of County Executive Isiah Leggett.
The County has a longstanding policy, in law and practice, against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Montgomery County already grants equal benefits to a same sex domestic partner of a County employee that are offered to an employee’s spouse, through Bill 29-99, effective March 3, 2000. Navarro’s bill would simply extend this law to many employees of County contractors and subcontractors.
What It Does: The legislation would extend equal benefits to a same-sex domestic partner of a covered employee recognized under a marriage license, domestic partnership or civil union granted out of state or to a same-sex domestic partner as defined under Maryland law. The legislation would only cover employees who perform work for the County on a contract that is currently covered by either the County’s Wage Requirements Law or the recently enacted Prevailing Wage Law.
Benefits that may be extended under the legislation could include bereavement leave, family medical leave, sick leave, health benefits, dental benefits, disability insurance, life insurance and retirement benefits.
“When it comes to civil rights, it is critical that we treat contract employees with the same respect as County employees when it comes to something as important as same-sex benefits for their domestic partners. This is a matter of basic fairness,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Because we are a large County with a diversity of employment situations, we have people who provide services and do outstanding work over long periods of time, but who do it working as contractors instead of as County employees. This should not stop them from receiving the same benefits as their opposite-sex counterparts.”
Some of the important exclusions from this Bill would be:
• Non-construction services contracts for less than $50,000
• Contractors with less than 10 employees
• Contracts with government agencies or non-profit organizations
• Contracts for public utility services
• Emergency contracts
• Bridge contracts based upon a contract awarded by another government agency
• Construction contracts valued at less than $500,000 or financed by State or Federal grants
“Equal treatment for individuals who have domestic partners in Montgomery County is a right, and I strongly support efforts to provide equal treatment for those partners of employees of companies who do business with Montgomery County,” said County Executive Leggett.
Maryland currently grants limited rights to same sex couples through legislation passed in 2008 to establish “domestic partnerships” in the state. According to Equality Maryland, the 2008 State laws included 11 protections for domestic partners, including hospital visitation and the making of funeral arrangements for each other. The organization said the State laws also make allowance for a domestic partner's name to be added or removed from the deed of a residence, without incurring a tax liability, as with married spouses.
Montgomery County’s law granting equal benefits to County employees has been upheld in the Maryland Court of Appeals after it was challenged in the case Tyma v. Montgomery County, 369 Md. 497 (Md. 2002).
“I am joining with Councilmember Navarro to support equal benefits for same sex-domestic partners who have formalized their civil unions,” said Councilmember Ervin, who represents Kensington, Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Wheaton. “For me, equal protection under the law is a civil rights issue. Benefits such as health insurance, maternity leave and dental and vision coverage are critical for all working families. Same-sex couples should have the same protections.”
Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg said: “While the County awaits the Attorney General’s opinion recognizing the valid marriages of out-of-state same-sex couples, as well as action from the General Assembly to recognize the humanity of all Marylanders by providing equal access to marriage and its rights and responsibilities, I fully support Councilmember Navarro’s bill to extend domestic partnership benefits to those who work for contractors doing business with Montgomery County.”
Councilmember Nancy Floreen said: “As a long time advocate of equal rights, I’ve always felt that the LGBT community has been underserved. I’m very proud to support this bill as another small step toward full equality in the workplace for Montgomery County’s LGBT community. I hope that, moving forward, LGBT couples and individuals are able to realize true equality under the law, both in Montgomery County and the State of Maryland.”
Councilmember Roger Berliner said: “This legislation builds upon Montgomery County’s proud tradition of fighting discrimination. Committed same sex partners do not have the same rights to basic health care that married heterosexual couples have. Our County extends these benefits equally; those who work for us should as well.”
Councilmember George Leventhal said: "Public policy should promote equal treatment for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. I am happy to co-sponsor this bill and congratulate Councilmember Navarro for her leadership on this important issue."