Among the provisions in the bill, introduced Thursday, is an “equality tax credit,” which would allow businesses who introduce domestic-partner benefits plans for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual partners of employees to deduct the cost of those benefits for tax purposes.
Kenney legislative aide Chris Goy said the program, which would be the first of its kind in the country, would serve as an incentive for employers to equalize their benefits plans.
“The idea here is to create something that no other city in America has tried,” Goy said. “We want to create an environment in which Philadelphia is the best place to look for an LGBT-friendly workplace in America. By reminding businesses of the saved costs they’re already getting through the employee-benefits process, and going further and reminding them that 96 percent of businesses that have adopted LGBT-favorable health plans have seen no increases in costs or negligible increases, we can do that.”
The tax credit would be available for two years and, if a business were to rescind domestic-partner plans in the following three years, it would be required to pay back the tax credit.
The bill would also clarify that life partners are guaranteed hospital-visitation and medical decision-making rights, and are exempt from the real-estate transfer tax.
New couples who register as life partners will be given necessary forms and explanations to help them create living wills and powers of attorney.
Language would be added to mandate that life partners be included in pension and survivor benefits for city employees, as well as in Fallen Hero awards and service-connected health-care benefits.
Goy noted that a court precedent paved the way for life partners to be eligible for such benefits, but this measure would codify that decision in law.
“While city employees were and are qualifying for this, it’s through a legal patchwork that we weren’t comfortable with,” he said. “We felt it was basically being done through an extension of one city solicitor’s opinion, and that’s a level of legal certainty that we weren’t comfortable with; we want it to be ironclad so that if anyone tries to discriminate in the future, they’re not going to be able to go under the radar.”
Kenney’s measure would also change all city documents to include a “self-identify” option for gender-related questions and Parent 1 and Parent 2 designations on family-related documents.
Goy said the city typically updates its forms on a yearly basis, so the reforms would occur then and not necessitate additional costs.
Kenney said the reforms would mark the next chapter for LGBT rights in Philadelphia.
“All Philadelphians deserve nothing less than dignified and equal treatment at work, at the hospital or doctor and from their government — regardless of marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation,” Kenney said. “Until now, because of restrictive state laws and court rulings, life partnerships only provided substantive benefits for same-sex couples employed by the City of Philadelphia. But as a result of this landmark legislation, the LGBT community and committed unmarried couples — straight and gay alike — will now benefit immensely.”
Goy expects City Council to hold hearings on the measure in December and to potentially vote on the bill the following month.
“I don’t anticipate this being a controversial bill but I do anticipate it being a widely talked-about bill, which might add some time to the hearing process, but beyond that I don’t see any reason why we can’t get this wide array of rights and protections locked in at some point in January,” he said.