New York City Council Stated Meeting Report
Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
STATED MEETING - May 5, 2004
Quote of the Day:
"This sends a message to taxpayers that when we use their money, that we use it with a goal of equality and full recognition of all under the law." -
Councilmember Christine Quinn, author of a bill that requires companies that contract with city government to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees.
The New York City Council passed the "Equal Benefits Bill," (Intro 137-B) legislation that requires companies that contract with New York City for $100,000 or more to provide benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.
Municipal employees were given domestic partner benefits beginning in 1998, but currently companies or organizations that contract with the city are not required to abide by the same rules.
"Today the city of New York will very clearly say that we will not do business with companies that do not provide equal benefits for all of their employees," said Speaker Gifford Miller. "We should not sanction discrimination with our dollars, and we will not."
The bill had strong support from other city officials including the city comptroller and public advocate, as well as groups like the Central Labor Council and the Empire State Pride Agenda.
However, some City Council members opposed the bill because it also applies to religious organizations and institutions, some of which oppose gay and lesbian relationships.
"[It] forces religious institutions to violate their beliefs," said Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. "These religious institutions provide food for the hungry and clothes to the poor, and they are not making any profit. I think religious institutions should have been exempted."
Officials for the New York Archdiocese have said the organization may stop providing benefits to employees altogether or sue the city if required to provide domestic partnership benefits.
But supporters argued that bill took religious organizations into consideration by providing a provision that allows them to provide benefits - not by virtue of domestic partnership - but because family members live in the same household.
The bill passed by a vote of 43 in favor, 5 against, and 2 abstentions. Voting "no" were Democratic council members Simcha Felder, James Gennaro, Peter Vallone, Jr., and Republicans Dennis Gallagher and James Oddo. Allan Jennings and Michael Nelson abstained.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he would veto the bill, arguing that the city should not use its purchasing power to promote social causes. The council has more than 35 votes needed to override the veto.
Over the next few weeks the City Council will focus almost exclusively on the $46 billion city budget, which must be adopted in June. (Click here for a full list of public hearings on the budget.)
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for May 19, 2004.
For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.