HRC praises bold move by Guiliani to promote equality

Washington -- Legislation proposed by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to extend many of the benefits enjoyed by married couples to domestic partners is a model of fairness that should be emulated around the nation, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay political organization.

"This bill will move New York's lesbian and gay city workers closer to the goal of equal pay for equal work -- giving them the same benefits married heterosexual city workers take for granted," said Education Director Kim I. Mills, who oversees workplace issues at HRC. "We applaud Mayor Giuliani for taking this important step toward acknowledging that our relationships are significant and deserve recognition."

Giuliani's proposal fulfills a campaign promise he made to gay rights advocates last year, three weeks before the election. This sweeping proposal places New York City in the forefront of equality for domestic partner benefits, according to HRC.

"Mayor Giuliani has demonstrated that he is a not just a politician, but a leader who keeps his word. He has gone beyond election rhetoric, and shown that he genuinely cares about the real issues facing many of his constituents," Mills added.

The proposal applies to both gay and heterosexual domestic partners registered with the city clerk. If the bill is enacted, domestic partners would have access to bereavement leave and visitation rights in city-owned hospitals. The city would also be required to allow domestic partners to continue as tenants in apartments leased to their partners and insuring their rights to be buried together in a city owned cemetery. Additionally, domestic partners would receive the same rights as legal spouses under the city's future collective bargaining agreements and would allow the mayor to provide "good Samaritan" awards to the domestic partners of uniformed city employees who are killed in the line of duty.

The City Council is expected to pass the proposal. According to city statistics, 8,700 unmarried couples have registered with the city clerk's office since 1992, with more than 55 percent heterosexual. HRC credited the hard work of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's statewide gay organization, for bringing this measure about.

"The activists in New York are trail blazers, helping to create a new paradigm for domestic partnership legislation that cities around the nation can follow. New York City has become a model for local leadership in our community and we owe them our thanks for their efforts," according to HRC National Field Director Donna Red Wing.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country, effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

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