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February 16, 2011
Mayor Grants Domestic Partner Benefits

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski recently signed into law an ordinance extending “the same health and other employment benefits to employees and retirees with same-sex domestic partners as it provides to employees and retirees with spouses.” City council passed the Domestic Partner Ordinance, No. 14868, unanimously on January 19. The ordinance makes Allentown the fourth municipality to extend domestic partner benefits, following Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

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The ordinance covers all non-union employees and members of the Service Employees International Union and the Municipal Employee Supervisory Association. To qualify, partners must show that they are living together and sharing living expenses.

The ordinance did not include pension benefits, which are governed by state laws. Police and firefighters were not included at the time of its signing.

Council Vice President Peter Schweyer, a co-sponsor of the measure, said, “Allentown is now following the best business practices by offering equal benefits to all of our staff. We are now in line with some of the nation’s top employers, including a majority of Fortune 500 companies.”

Reaction. “We have been working on this legislation for 16 years” said Liz Bradbury, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Diversity Network. “This is landmark legislation. Allentown’s government has made a public statement that it fully supports its gay and lesbian workers and their families.”

“Council members have said the issue is about fairness and equity, not dollars and cents,” said Diane Gramley, President of the American Family Association of PA. “But just how much do they expect the taxpayers of Allentown to pay in extending these benefits? How high will the city’s health insurance costs be driven?”

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