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Lancaster approves same-sex benefits for city employees

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law

The city of Lancaster has adopted a policy that allows city employees to seek the same health care and other employment benefits for their same-sex partners that are now available to married employees and retirees.

City employees seeking benefits are required to provide documentation verifying that they cohabit with their partner, have been jointly responsible for each other’s living expenses for at least a year and cannot legally marry.

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray noted that the policy is not the same as extending the benefits to unmarried hetero­sexual couples, since those couples have the option to marry. “From the beginning, I felt it was important that if you can get married, get married. This is for people who can’t get married,” Gray told Lancaster’s Intel­li­gencer Journal newspaper.

If same-sex unions were ever recognized in Pennsylvania, the city policy would no longer apply, Gray said. He noted that nearly one-quarter of For­tune 500 companies offer domestic-partner benefits.

For now, Lancaster firefighters and police officers aren’t eligible for domestic-partner benefits because they are subject to existing union contracts. Gray said the benefits should be on the table during the next round of contract negotiations.

Lancaster follows Allentown, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in extending domestic-partner benefits to public employees. Pennsylvania state government offers them as well.

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