Companies Offering Gay Benefits Increase

More employers are offering health insurance coverage to the partners of homosexual employees — a total that includes just over 100 of the Fortune 500 companies — according to a report released today by a gay rights group.

The study, by the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, found that a total of 3,572 companies, colleges and states and local governments offered or had announced they would offer health insurance to their employees’ domestic partners. This was up 25 percent from a year ago, when 2,856 employers extended such benefits.

The findings were included in the group’s annual “State of the Workplace for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Americans.”

“Domestic partner benefits are increasingly becoming a standard business practice in corporate America,” said Kim I. Mills, education director of the Human Rights Campaign. “Employers have discovered that these benefits help attract and keep the best workers, a critical consideration in the current tight job market.”

Landmark Move for Big Three

The report called a “landmark move” the announcement in June by Big Three domestic automakers — DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and Ford — and the United Auto Workers that domestic-partner benefits would be offered to their more than 400,000 employees.

“This marked the first time that virtually an entire sector of American commerce, along with its leading union, decided collectively to provide domestic partner benefits,” the report said.

Fortune 500 companies offering or planning to offer domestic partner benefits increased from 70 in August 1999 to 102 last month, an increase of 46 percent. In addition, 41 of the top 50 companies in America prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, the report said.

“All the signs point to private and public employers continuing to institute nondiscrimination policies and domestic partner benefits,” the study said. However, it noted that there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, nor is there one in 39 states, although President Clinton issued an executive order in 1998 prohibiting such discrimination in the federal civilian work force.

In government, the report noted that since August 1999, five municipalities have outlawed anti-gay job discrimination. Of those, four — Davenport, Iowa; Grand Ledge, Mich.; Henderson, Ky.; and Jefferson County, Ky.—were in states that did not have such statewide prohibitions. The other was Westchester County, N.Y.

The number of cities and counties that prohibit discrimination based.