CITY HALL — Companies that win contracts from City Hall could soon have to provide employees living in same-sex domestic partnerships with the same level of family benefits available to their married employees after the City Council gave preliminary approval to an “equal benefits ordinance” on Tuesday night.

The move, which was suggested by Councilman Richard Bloom and approved by a unanimous vote, gave City Hall attorneys the authority to begin drafting a potential new law. The rule would likely mirror similar laws already adopted by the state of California, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berkeley and a number of other cities and counties throughout the country.

The law would not require City Hall contractors to provide benefits not previously offered, but it would mandate that health insurance, retirement and disability benefits available to the spouses of married employees would also have to be available to the partners of employees living in domestic partnerships.

“The intended effect of the law is to prohibit discrimination by city contractors based on sexual orientation and marital status,” Bloom told his colleagues before the vote.

He said allowing same-sex marriage in California would render the proposed new law moot. But it’s necessary, he said, since gay marriage in the state is currently barred and the right of same-sex couples to marry here remains in doubt.

California voters in 2008 approved Prop. 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. A federal judge in August ruled Prop. 8 was illegal under the U.S. Constitution, but that decision hasn’t taken effect pending an appeal.

In the meantime, Marc Solomon, marriage director with the group Equality California, said ordinances like the one proposed in Santa Monica are having an impact.

“I can tell you that thousands of businesses now offer equal benefits as a direct result of these laws,” he told the council on Tuesday.

nick@www.smdp.com

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