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SAN FRANCISCO-San Francisco has quelled two controversies over its domestic partner benefits ordinance.
The Board of Supervisors reached separate agreements with United Airlines and the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco to resolve their objections to the ordinance requiring city contractors to provide benefits to registered domestic partners equal to spousal benefits (BI, Nov. 11, 1996). Under the agreement reached with the archdiocese, Catholic Charities, a non-profit service subsidiary of the church, can choose to replace the words "domestic partners" with the phrase, "a legally domiciled member of the employee's household." Catholic Charities contracts with the city to provide about $5 million in services to the poor in San Francisco each year.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano, a leading supporter of the ordinance, expressed satisfaction with the agreement, saying the compromise language "exceeds the scope of the ordinance," as more people than just domestic partners now qualify for the benefits.
In reaching an agreement with Archbishop William Levada, the city defused a growing controversy with the Catholic Church. The archbishop said providing domestic partner benefits recognizes a relationship contrary to the denomination's beliefs.
The largest business objection to the ordinance also was resolved, for the moment. UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, balked at providing the benefits as a condition to signing a lease for additional space at San Francisco International Airport. The compromise agreement approved by the city's Board of Supervisors provides United with a one year and 364-day lease with an option for a 23-year renewal. United wanted a 25-year lease without offering the benefits. United then must provide the benefits or the lease won't be renewed. The ordinance exempts contracts under two years in length from providing the benefits if the contracts are signed by June 1. A similar agreement was reached earlier this month with Pacific Telesis Group.
"It provides for the proper allotment of time for United to complete the review of the ordinance and how it affects the company," a United spokeswoman said.
Mr. Ammiano pointed out that United has other contracts up for renewal in July that will be approved only if the company offers the benefits at that time.