Lambda Helps San Francisco Fight For Domestic Partner Benefit Breakthrough

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Argument in suit takes place Friday, October 10
October 2, 1997

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, October 2, 1997

Contact: Jennifer C. Pizer, 213-937-2728, ext. 223; Peg Byron, 212-809-8585, ext. 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)

(LOS ANGELES, October 2, 1997) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the country's largest and oldest lesbian and gay legal organization, is helping defend the City of San Francisco's policy of contracting only with businesses that provide employee benefits to unmarried as well as married workers.

Oral argument in Air Transport Association v. City and County of San Francisco is scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, October 10, before Judge Claudia Wilken of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California at the Federal Courthouse, 1301 Clay Street, Oakland.

Lambda is a "friend of the court" in the lawsuit brought by an umbrella group of airlines and freight carriers, some of which enjoy contracts with the City to use city-owned land for kitchen and repair facilities, hospitality lounges, corporate offices, and other auxiliary functions. (Landing rights are governed by federal law and not affected by the City's ordinance.)

"San Francisco is using its purse like any other shopper with a conscience -- to encourage fair employment practices by selecting contractors which don't discriminate. This commitment to workplace equity is akin to the investment policies that not so long ago helped discourage business support for apartheid," said Jennifer Pizer, Managing Attorney of Lambda's Western Regional Office in Los Angeles and an author of the amicus brief in the case.

At Lambda's headquarters in New York, Executive Director Kevin Cathcart said, "With this lawsuit, the airlines are off course. They should follow San Francisco's courageous leadership toward equal pay for equal work and help end discrimination on the basis of workers' marital status."

The City's policy has spurred companies like the San Francisco 49ers, Pacific Bell, and Chevron Oil Corporation to join the growing numbers of employers around the country that offer domestic partner benefits.

"More than 500 public and private employers now offer their unmarried and their married workers similar benefits packages. San Francisco was among the first cities to provide such benefits to its own workers, and the new Equal Benefits Ordinance makes the city a model for the country in its commitment to equitable employment practices," Pizer said.

Lambda's amicus brief detailed the numerous advantages and nominal costs of domestic partner benefits, and pointed out that San Francisco's decision to stop subsidizing discrimination with its public dollars is in keeping with the City's longstanding commitment to equality. The brief was prepared and submitted together with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California, the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The Equal Benefits Ordinance took effect June 1. The Air Transport Association of America and Airline Industrial Relations Conference launched a sweeping and aggressive challenge to it and sought summary judgment to either invalidate the ordinance or grant special exemptions for their members. The ATA and AIRCON recently retreated substantially, dropping a key legal argument from their summary judgment motion and withdrawing a separate motion that sought a preliminary injunction to block the ordinance.

Lambda is a national legal organization that defends the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS. Now approaching its 25th anniversary, Lambda has its national headquarters in New York, a Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, a Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, and a Southern Regional Office in Atlanta.

(Air Transport Association v. City and County of San Francisco, Case. No. C-97 1763 CW) -- 30 --


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