Students in Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Helped Equality Florida Draft Legislation

New York, Nov. 22, 2011—The Broward County Commission voted unanimously on November 8 to pass an Equal Benefits Ordinance that requires companies doing business with Broward County to provide domestic partners with benefits equal to those offered to married employees. The law was drafted with the assistance of students in the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.

“The goal of an equal benefits ordinance is to ensure equal pay for equal work,” explained Hillary Schneller ’12, a clinic student who wrote a memorandum in support of the ordinance and drafted portions of the ordinance along with Erin Meyer ’11, and Larra Morris ’11. “An Equal Benefits Ordinance requires contractors doing business with a local government to offer employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners the same benefits.”

Broward County is the first county in Florida to adopt an equal benefits ordinance, but joins the state of California and a growing number of cities, including Miami Beach, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Olympia, Seattle, and Portland, which have passed similar laws. The Broward ordinance applies to companies that enter contracts with the county worth $100,000 or more.

“Because benefits are such an important part of compensation, equal benefits ordinances like Broward County’s help ensure that employees in domestic partnerships are paid on par with their married co-workers,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, the clinic’s director.

The effort to have this Equal Benefits Ordinance enacted in Broward County was spearheaded by Equality Florida, a St. Petersburg-based civil rights organization that sought assistance from the clinic students in drafting the ordinance. Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and has been working to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida since 1997.

Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting-edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis and other forms of advocacy. Under the guidance of Professor Suzanne Goldberg, clinic students have worked on a wide range of projects, from constitutional litigation to legislative advocacy to immigration cases, to serve both individual and organizational clients in cases involving issues of sexuality and gender law.

For more information, please visit: http://www.law.columbia.edu/focusareas/clinics/sexuality. To contact Goldberg: call (212) 854-0411 or email suzanne.goldberg@law.columbia.edu.

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