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Santa Monica, CA: City Council Adds Same-Sex Equality Ordinance To Living Wage Law
The LookOut News
Jason Islas

April 28, 2011
View the Original Article

April 28, 2011 -- The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a motion requiring contractors doing business with the city to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples as to heterosexual couples.

“This is a relatively small but significant step to help ensure that those who do business with the City of Santa Monica will not discriminate against couples who live together in same-sex partnerships,” said Mayor Richard Bloom.

Bloom added that he hopes this will help “undermine a culture of discrimination that still unfortunately exists in our society.”

“I hope by joining the growing list of cities tonight, we will encourage other cities to do the same,” Bloom said. Santa Monica joins a number of California cities which have already passed similar ordinances, including Berkeley, Oakland, San Diego and Sacramento.

Jim Carroll, interim executive director of Equality California, thanked Mayor Bloom for all his work on the ordinance.

“The equal benefits ordinance is an important measure that would help California businesses, including businesses here in Santa Monica, while at the same time helping to advance equality by making sure tax dollars do not go to discriminate,” Carroll said.

The ordinance is “an amendment to the city's living wage law,” City Attorney Marsha Moutrie told the Council, “so that we would already have a mechanism in place to ensure compliance.”

By attaching the equal benefits ordinance to the living wage law, the same organizations that are exempt to the living wage law would also be exempt from the ordinance, including city grantees and non-profit organizations.

But because city grantees all do their work within the city (unlike contractors, who may be based elsewhere), they are already subject to Santa Monica's anti-discrimination laws, which already prohibit giving different benefits to same-sex couples, Moutrie said.

One possible exemption to the ordinance, however, caught Bloom's attention.

“I don't recall what the rationale was for the exemption for corporations providing banking services,” Bloom said.

Moutrie explained that this was an exemption built into the living wage law because when it was drafted, the City was uncertain if it would be able to find any national bank in compliance with the law.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis wanted staff to address the question of specifically what laws are on the books against discrimination by outside contractors saying, “I'd like to know that there are other protections available in the interim.”

However, she added that staff would return to address whether that particular exemption would be extended to the equal benefits ordinance.