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August 28, 2009

 

Franklin grants benefits to county workers’ partners

with wire reports

Columbus--The Franklin County Commissioners on August 18 unanimously approved domestic partner benefits for county employees.

The benefits, similar to those given to married workers’ spouses, will be open to unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and will take effect January 1, 2010. They will not be open to employees of other elected county officials, like auditor, judges or the sheriff, although the commissioners are urging other offices to make domestic partner benefits available to their employees as well.

Franklin County joins Cleveland Heights, the Columbus Public School District and seven state universities in offering the benefits, which have been unsuccessfully challenged in court as a violation of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“It’s about integrity,” Commissioner Marilyn Brown said, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Barbara Carmen. “I am so proud we are enacting this among our benefits. It enhances our ability to attract and retain the best employees.”

The move to add the benefits simply follows the trends among large employers, said Commissioner John O’Grady.

“In 1991, not a single Fortune 500 company offered domestic partner benefits. In 2008, 57 percent did,” he said.

The benefits are expected to add less than one percent to the county’s benefits costs, since some qualifying employees would already be covered under a partner’s insurance, and others might want to protect their privacy by not enrolling.

Unions have been asking for the benefits for over a year, said leader Marianne Steger. She also pointed to both fairness and recruiting as driving forces behind adding them.

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