Louisville’s Metro Mayor, Greg Fischer, has announced that he will be fulfilling a campaign promise on Friday, when he signs an executive order extending health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of Metro Government employees. The order is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2012, and will provide for medical, dental and vision insurance benefits for same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples.
The Mayor has the legal authority to issue an executive ruling of this nature, but the Metro Council will have to appropriate sufficient funds next fiscal year to cover the cost. The City has about 5,500 employees, and—although there are no accurate figures as to how many employees will take advantage of the program—estimates indicate the yearly cost may reach one-half million dollars.
To qualify as a domestic partner under the Mayor’s new plan, persons will have to be at least 18 years of age, unmarried, and ineligible for Medicare. The domestic partner will need to have resided in the City employee’s household for at least nine months, and will need to demonstrate some sort of “financial interdependence.” This interdependence can be demonstrated by a joint checking account, mortgage, utility bill statement or apartment lease.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are not classes protected against discrimination under Kentucky’s current civil rights law (KRS §344), but several cities in the state—including Louisville—have local ordinances prohibiting such discrimination.
The Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government Code of Ordinances, §92.01, states the City’s clear policy in this regard:
It is the policy of the Metro Government to safeguard all individuals within Jefferson County from discrimination in certain contexts because of race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, age, disability, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Certain practices must be prohibited within the areas of employment, housing, public accommodation, resort or amusement as necessary to protect individuals’ personal dignity and insure freedom from humiliation; to make available to Jefferson County all full productive capacities; to secure Jefferson County against strife and unrest which would menace its democratic institutions; and to preserve the public safety, health and general welfare.
Characterizing his action as “the right thing to do,” Mayor Fischer said, “The message I want to send is that we value all people. The big picture here is that any type of progressive organization needs to have a domestic-partner plan. I don’t want anything to impede or restrain us from attracting the best employees.”
Projected Take-Up Rate for Domestic Partner Benefits in the United States