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California legislature passes bill strengthening equal benefits law for LGBT workers

SACRAMENTO -- The California state Legislature approved a bill that will bar the State of California from entering into contracts in excess of $100,000 with businesses and other entities that deny equal benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees.

The Equal Benefits bill (SB 117), authored by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) and sponsored by Equality California, passed with a 22-13 vote.

“Current law allows our state to do business with companies that unfairly discriminate against workers because of their sexual orientation,” said Roland Palencia, executive director of Equality California. “The Equal Benefits bill advances full equality for all and ensures that our state’s tax dollars do not subsidize discrimination.”

Beginning in 1996 in San Francisco, Equality California’s leadership has been working with city councils and the California legislature to pass equal benefits ordinances. Since then, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo County, San Diego and Santa Monica have adopted such ordinances. Other cities with similar ordinances include Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Miami Beach.

“Providing the same benefits to an employee with a domestic partner, or same-sex or opposite-sex spouse ensures that workers receive equal pay for equal work,” Kehoe said. “California should lead the way for other employers to provide benefits that are non-discriminatory.”

It is estimated that thousands of businesses and other entities now offer equal benefits as a direct result of these laws, including automobile companies, most airlines and many Fortune 500 companies and small businesses.

The bill now moves to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature.