by Stanley Ellicott | Out & Equal focuses much of its energy to achieve workplace equality by working directly with national and multi-national corporations. But across the country, city and county policies also play an important role in promoting workplace equality.
In 1996 San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors enacted an Equal Benefits Ordinance, requiring all contractors to offer equivalent benefits for same-sex couples, as offered to married spouses. As the first jurisdiction in the United States to mandate this change, San Francisco has brought more than 14,000 firms into compliance. Along the way to compliance, firms are also required to promise not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or characteristics. With one brave decision, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors helped create 14,000 Out & Equal Workplaces.
The decision motivated many local businesses to write and adopt non-discrimination policies. The decision was particularly important in motivating small businesses that do not have the resources of a large corporation to develop and implement a non-discrimination policy.
Following the landmark decision in San Francisco, cities across the country, from as far as Seattle, WA to Portland, ME enacted similar ordinances. By using these “carrots” local governments can be the agents of change, creating cultures of equity and acceptance, one contract at a time.
We owe these local policies our collective gratitude. While the Federal government continues to stall on an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and characteristics, local policy makers have been finding innovative ways to lead the fight for equality for more than 15 years.