Democratic Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias has signed an executive order extending family-leave benefits to gay and lesbian workers at the state treasurer's office, where he is currently the boss.
Workers in committed same-sex relationships will be able to take 12 weeks unpaid leave per year to care for a sick family member. They will also be allowed to take time off for the birth or adoption of a child, just like straight couples.
The State Treasurer's office employs about 180 people. Workers who want to take the benefit will have to sign a form affirming that they are in a committed relationship.
"These aren't added bonuses or employee perks," Giannoulias said. "These are the same basic rights other employees have long come to expect."
In Illinois, so-called "constitutional officers" (elected officials like the state treasurer or attorney general) can establish personnel policies like this at their own discretion. The next state treasurer could dump the policy.
Giannoulias is locked in a heated battle with Republican Mark Kirk for President Obama's old Senate seat, but Giannoulias denies that the Senate seat has anything to do with this.
"This is the right thing to do. It's the only reason that I'm doing this," he said. "It's about fairness and equality. It's not about politics."
A spokesperson for Kirk's Senate campaign told the Chicago Tribune
that Kirk supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. ENDA has been introduced virtually every year since 1994 but has never passed.