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90.5 WESA's collection of stories on race, diversity, LGBT, gender and age-related stories.

Pittsburgh to Require Some City Contractors to Offer Domestic Partnership Benefits

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that requires contractors who enter into a contract of $250,000 or more with the city to offer same-sex domestic partnership benefits to its employees.

In an earlier interview with WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh program, the bill's sponsor, Councilman Bruce Kraus, defined a domestic partnership as two people who are at least 18 years old, not married or in a domestic partnership with another person, and who have voluntarily been together for a minimum of 12 months.

Kraus said the legislation is important to ensure the city does not use tax dollars to endorse discrimination.

“I believe that by the passage of this today … that we will be sending a very clear and strong message from the city of Pittsburgh that we stand for very broad based, very diversified and equal work forces,” he said.

Kraus said the city of Pittsburgh has had a history of being inviting to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

He noted how it added them as a protected class in employment housing and public accommodation in 1989 and again with gender identity and expression in 1994.

Councilman Ricky Burgess said diversity and respect should be the goal of the council and individuals.

“I am committed to diversity and social justice,” Burgess said. “I will not tolerate discrimination of any form in government or in private industry.”

The bill will allow exceptions such as if it interferes with the employer’s ability to receive state and federal funds or if the contractor is religiously affiliated.

“We’re committed to being able to attract and to nurture and to promote that kind of a workforce here in the city of Pittsburgh,” Kraus said.

Pittsburgh will become the 13th city in the United States to offer legislation like this. Philadelphia introduced and passed a similar bill in 2011.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.