For Pittsburgh city councilman Bruce Kraus, the reason he introduced the Equal Benefits Ordinance to council can be summed up in one word: equality.
“It’s the right thing to do,” says Kraus of the ordinance, which will require private companies contracted with the city for jobs of more than $250,000 to extend benefits to domestic partners, including those of the same sex. “It sends a message of inclusiveness,” he adds.
In his mind, that message of inclusiveness is indispensable to a city like Pittsburgh, which must evolve and adapt in order to attract a good workforce. Though Kraus argues that the city has been fairly inclusive in the past, he believes that the city and its officials must continue striving to “promote, nurture, protect and enhance the employment opportunities in Pittsburgh.”
The ordinance, which Kraus began to develop as early as a year ago, does allow for exceptions. If the application of the ordinance would interfere with the employer’s ability to receive state and federal funds, if compliance would interfere with a collective bargaining agreement, if the contractor is religiously affiliated and providing benefits would conflict with its religious values, or if the contractor is the sole supplier of the service or material, then the ordinance could be waived. The ordinance would cause Pittsburgh to join Philadelphia in providing benefits for same-sex couples that exceed those of the state at large. Kraus emphasizes that he seeks to focus on improving conditions in the city rather than worry about legislation he has no hand in.
Kraus does express some frustration, however, with Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, saying that “Pennsylvania [as a] commonwealth is not quite as inviting as the city of Pittsburgh” for members of the LGBT community. As Kraus sees it, Pennsylvania’s DOMA creates an unequal “separation of class, in applying individual laws to individual classes of people.”