Rule Drafted by Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Students Becomes Law in Pennsylvania City


Public Affairs, 212-854-2650
New York, Jan. 26, 2011--An ordinance written by students in the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic that grants domestic partner benefits to employees of Allentown, Pa., was signed into law today by Mayor Ed Pawlowski.
The ordinance will provide city employees who have same-sex domestic partners the same benefits as employees with spouses, including health insurance and time off when a partner is hospitalized or dies.
“Allentown must be a city of inclusion, a city where every person counts,” Pawlowski said.  “For a city to grow and thrive it has to be a progressive community, one that supports the rights of all its individuals.  I am proud that I live in a progressive city that recognizes that what makes us great is our unique diversity.”
The seven-member Allentown City Council unanimously approved the domestic partnership ordinance on Jan. 19.
“We are thrilled that the City Council and Mayor have supported and passed these domestic partner benefits,” said Larra Morris ‘11, who drafted the ordinance along with Jennifer Simcovitch ‘11, and Swathi Sukumar ’10. “Since same-sex couples cannot marry in Pennsylvania, the law is significant for the gay and lesbian members of the city's workforce who previously could not obtain these benefits for their domestic partners.
The ordinance applies to Allentown’s approximately 1,000-employee workforce as well as its retirees.  
Allentown joins more than 80 U.S. cities and counties in that have adopted laws recognizing domestic partnerships. “Because benefits are such an important part of compensation, domestic partnership ordinances like Allentown’s help ensure that gay and lesbian employees are paid on par with their non-gay co-workers,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, the clinic’s director.
In drafting the law, the clinic collaborated with the Pennsylvania Diversity Network, the largest LGBT organization in Pennsylvania, which had been advocating for domestic partnership benefits in Allentown for more than 15 years. The students also worked with City Council President Mike D’Amore, who introduced the legislation, and the city human resources department.
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 the guidance of Professor Suzanne Goldberg, 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.
For more information, please visit: To contact Goldberg: call (212) 854-0411 or email [email protected].
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.