Letters

Human resource consultants described the success experienced by companies that had implemented domestic-partner benefits, and one commented that he knew of no company which had regretted the decision. We then heard from a series of small-business owners, other business community representatives, and individuals with additional suggestions, questions, and concerns. The only person to express any outright frustration with the legislation was the one person heavily quoted in the article.

Instead of negatively characterizing the temperature of the meeting room or the weariness of the panelists, why didn't the article mention the city's plan to offer workshops to current and potential contractors on what this law means and how it will be implemented? Why didn't it mention the Insurance Fair the Human Rights Commission is organizing? What happened to the description of the sample policies, ongoing technical assistance, and the many, many calls for assistance that have been successfully handled by the Human Rights Commission?

Perhaps the most alarming omission in the story was the failure to mention the positive effect this legislation will have. It didn't discuss the long history of discrimination same-sex couples face and the many ways in which employees with domestic partners are denied equal pay for equal work because of the added value of benefits received by their married co-workers. Members of the public commented on this at the Dec. 17 meeting, but somehow it didn't make it into print.

Finally, the article points to The Gap's introduction of domestic-partner benefits as bearing "mixed results." This negative characterization doesn't pan out, even within the article's own words. The enrollment levels experienced by The Gap are consistent with other companies. This is true for a number of reasons, including the tax implications to the employee and the fact that many domestic partners already have coverage through their own employer. How is this negative? The Gap is able to hold itself out as progressive-minded, hire from the quality applicant pool generated by offering the most competitive benefits package, and do so without increasing their risk pool or cost of premiums.

The commission is proud to work with San Franciscans who desire to end discrimination, and we will continue to diligently communicate our efforts to the public.

Cynthia G. Goldstein
Discrimination Representative
Human Rights Commission
San Francisco

Tara Shioya replies: Nowhere does the article "claim" that the December meeting was the first time city officials met with the business community regarding the legislation. However, the article should have stated more clearly that this was the first meeting held among the city's Human Rights Commission, the Small Business Advisory Commission, and businesses specifically to discuss the new domestic-partner benefits law. Nowhere does the article say that the business community opposes the new law -- and any such inference is unjustified.

The sidebar on The Gap Inc. does not "belittle" the bill -- it simply states that fewer than 1 percent of Gap employees take advantage of domestic-partner benefits because those benefits are considered taxable income.

On sources, several legal experts were interviewed for this story. All concurred that the city's new law is certain to encounter challenges under ERISA and the National Labor Relations Act. Ironically, the supervisors themselves concede "the possibility of litigation."

The Human Rights Commission may be organizing fairs, workshops, and the like, but the point stands that the HRC had little information for business owners at the time the article ran. The business owner quoted was one of several people interviewed -- many of whom were not at the December meeting -- who echoed his frustrations.

Domestic Bliss
I wanted to say what a great article your "In Sickness and In Health?" was. Actually, it was upsetting news for me because I am going to ask my employer if they would recognize domestic partnership. Now I know what they are up against, and myself too!

Your article gave me a lot of information that I have been unsuccessfully seeking. I belong to the Human Rights Campaign, who I asked awhile ago for info on domestic partnership. I will let them know I found a lot of my answers in your magazine, before they ever responded back!

It's great to see well-publicized magazines bring forward what is really happening. On the top of the cake domestic partnership sounds great, but the more you look into it it's more like Swiss cheese ... that smells!

This article has prompted me to start getting involved in trying to help clear up this unfair situation. I didn't realize this domestic partnership thing was so unjust. It seems like we always get short-ended, even if we think we are finally getting some fair treatment.

Thanks again for your article, and putting it on the cover, too. That's what prompted me to pick it up. Keep up the great work!

Desiree Hoover
Pacifica

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