New York, March 2, 2012—The Key West City Commission voted unanimously on February 22 to pass an equal benefits ordinance that requires companies doing business with Key West to provide domestic partners with benefits equal to those offered to married employees. The law was drafted with the assistance of students in the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic. Broward County adopted a similar law in November, also drafted with the Clinic’s support.
“The goal of an equal benefits ordinance is to ensure equal pay for equal work,” explained Hillary Schneller ’12, a clinic student who assisted in drafting the ordinance. “An equal benefits ordinance requires contractors doing business with a local government to offer employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners the same benefits.”
Key West is the third Florida community to adopt an equal benefits ordinance, joining Broward County and Miami Beach, as well as, among others, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Olympia, Seattle, and the state of California, which have passed similar laws. The Key West ordinance applies to companies that enter the city’s competitive bid process, which affects contracts with the city worth $20,000 or more.
“Because benefits are such an important part of compensation, equal benefits ordinances like Key West’s help ensure that employees in domestic partnerships are paid on par with their married co-workers,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg
, the clinic’s director.
The effort to have this Equal Benefits Ordinance enacted in Key West was spearheaded by Equality Florida, a St. Petersburg-based civil rights organization that sought assistance from the clinic students in drafting the ordinance. Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and has been working to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida since 1997.
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting-edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis and other forms of advocacy. Under Goldberg’s guidance, clinic students have worked on a wide range of projects, from constitutional litigation to legislative advocacy to immigration cases, to serve both individual and organizational clients in cases involving issues of sexuality and gender law.