Chicago Alderman Moves To Guarantee Gay Businesses Get City Contracts

Thu. July 10, 2003 12:00 AM by

Chicago, IL - On the heels of Cook County's decision last week to create a domestic partner registry, (story) Chicago is considering a raft of potential laws that could make the city one of the most gay friendly in the country.

Ald. Tom Tunney, Chicago's first openly gay aldermen, is looking at legislation that would require the city to do business only with companies which cover the health benefits of the registered partners of gays and lesbians providing they provide similar health insurance for the spouses of their married employees.

Tunney said he is also researching the possibility of a contract set-aside for gay-and lesbian-owned businesses similar to the 25 and 5 percent shares for minorities and women now under attack in federal court.

"I'm interested in trying to provide the benefit. But I've gotten mixed reviews about whether we have established enough of a history of losing contracts because of sexual orientation. That's the burden of proof," Tunney told the Chicago Tribune

"As a gay business owner myself, I'm not certain how we would define this category or meet the extra burden of proving a history of discrimination. I know the mayor in theory over the years has said it sounds like an interesting idea. But there's a lot of work to be done. It's very complicated."

Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois, said he would defer to Tunney's "judgment as a businessman" on the volatile issue of gay and lesbian set-asides. Tunney is the owner of a chain of restaurants.

But he said, "Clearly, there has been discrimination against gay businesses and gay people. There's been a history of it that can be proven."

Tunney said he operates under the theory that along with added benefits comes responsibility.

He's proposing an amendment to Chicago's ethics ordinance that would require the live-in partners of gay and lesbian elected officials and city employees to abide by the same restrictions and disclosure requirements as the husbands and wives of city employees.

"I'm not in a committed relationship. I don't have shared financial resources. But if I wanted to have my partner sign up for health insurance under the city plan, I should also have the responsibility that goes along with those added benefits," he said.

Chicago's domestic partners ordinance started in 1994 with bereavement leave and was extended three years later to include health insurance benefits for the live-in partners of gay and lesbian employees.

by Steph Smith Newscenter
Chicago Bureau
©® 2003

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.



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