Firefighters' Union Joins Lambda Legal Letter Seeking Partners Benefits for Bellevue City Employees

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"All City employees should have equal access to benefits."
May 14, 2007

(Bellevue, WA, May 14, 2007) — The union representing Bellevue city firefighters has joined a Lambda Legal letter in support of family benefits for City workers with domestic partners. Lambda Legal delivered the letter to Mayor Grant Degginer and members of the Bellevue City Council this morning.


"Local 1604 believes that not only our members, but all City employees, should have equal access to benefits," said Bruce Ansell, president of International Association of Firefighters, Local 1604.  "We strongly urge the City Council to adopt a broad based domestic partner benefits program."


Veteran Bellevue City firefighters Faun Patzer and Larry deGroen are members of Local 1604 and, along with lead city 911 dispatcher George Einsetler, are plaintiffs in a Lambda Legal lawsuit against the city seeking family benefits for gay and lesbian city employees.  Patzer, deGroen and Einsetler seek the same benefits for their same-sex partners their heterosexual coworkers already receive for their spouses.


In recent contract negotiations with the City of Bellevue, IAFF pressed the city to include domestic partnership benefits for its members, but the city declined.  At a city council meeting on April 23, councilmembers ordered staff to develop a strategy to implement domestic partner benefits.  The council is expected to take up the issue in the coming weeks.   


The letter, written by Lambda Legal attorneys Jennifer C. Pizer and Tara L. Borelli, states "the City's gay and lesbian employees have asked repeatedly for equal family benefits, both individually and through their collective bargaining agents, and have had to cope for years with the government-imposed label of inferiority, as well as the attendant anxiety and expense caused by the continuing, unjust denial of benefits."  Lambda Legal urges Bellevue to implement swiftly a family benefits policy for all unmarried city workers with a domestic partner, both gay and heterosexual.


Larry deGroen is a firefighter and paramedic in Bellevue and has been an employee of the city for more than 12 years. He and life partner Tom Dixon have been together for more than 16 years.  Faun Patzer has a 17-year career as a Bellevue firefighter, and was the first female firefighter to successfully complete the city's prestigious paramedic training program.  She has been with life partner Carrie Wurzburg for over four years.  George Einsetler is the city's lead 9-1-1 dispatcher, and has been a city employee for 13 years. He and his life partner, Cameron Murdock, have been in a committed relationship for more than three years.


Read Lambda Legal's letter.  


***Attorney Tara L. Borelli is in Seattle today and tomorrow (May 14 and 15, 2007) and available for comment***


Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara L. Borelli and Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer are counsel in deGroen et al v. City of Bellevue et al.  Derek A. Newman of Newman & Newman, Attorneys at Law, LLP in Seattle is co-counsel on the case.


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Contact:  Jason Howe, 213-382-7600, ext. 247; jhowe@lambdalegal.org.                          


 

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