The Milwaukee County Board passed on Thursday a resolution to extend domestic partnerships to include county employees both gay and straight.
This change was brought by an overwhelming 13-5 vote. As the law currently stands, such benefits are only given to married partners, however this change will allow gay and straight domestic partners alike access to key health benefits they had been denied before.
Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Eyon Biddle, Sr., released a statement praising the vote:
“We’d like to thank our colleagues on the County Board who voted to approve this private-sector benefit model. As County Supervisors, we must ensure that all employees are treated equally and fairly. We look forward to joining the many other public and private sector employers that already treat employees fairly and equally.”
“A supermajority of County Supervisors supported this change, sending the strong message that Milwaukee County wants to hire the best and the brightest. This will help us better compete as we look to attract workers starting or continuing their careers in Milwaukee County government.”
Equality group Fair Wisconsin also praised the extension of domestic partner benefits, with Katie Belanger, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin, quoted as saying:
“This decision marks an important victory for fairness. Providing equal employment benefits for all county employees is the right decision.”
County Executive Abele has indicated he will sign the resolution. The changes will go into effect January 2012.
Milwaukee County, in extending these provisions, has joined an increasing list of contractors from around the United States that already offer gay-inclusive domestic partner benefits including the
City of Milwaukee and Marquette University.
This comes in a week where the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data concerning the domestic partner benefits that public and private employers provide. This is the first time the department has tracked domestic partnership benefits in this way. The department found that just 33 percent of state and local government workers and 29 percent of private sector workers have access to health care benefits for unmarried domestic partners of the same sex. Read more about that here.