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West Palm Beach, Fla., contractors must offer domestic partner benefits


City commissioners in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance requiring private companies that contract with the city to provide equal benefits for domestic partners.

Effective Aug. 29, companies with at least five full-time employees bidding for city construction, supply or service contracts valued at $50,000 or more must offer benefits to employees' same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners equal to the spousal and dependent benefits they offer to legally married couples.

Companies are exempt from the ordinance if they do not provide spousal or dependent benefits to their employees. Government entities and contracts for emergency services are also exempt from the law.

West Palm Beach, a middle-class coastal city of approximately 102,000 residents located about 70 miles north of Miami, already offers spousal-equivalent benefits to its employees' domestic partners. The five-member commission said in the law's text that it believes the new requirement will encourage “contractors and businesses to maintain a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining the highest quality work force, thereby improving the quality of goods and services that the city receives.”

Florida is among the 31 states that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The city commissioners noted in the preamble to the ordinance that similar laws have been passed in other Florida cities and counties, including Broward County, Hallendale Beach, Key West, Miami Beach, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors.