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Bloomberg Once Vetoed Partner Benefits for NYC Contractors' Workers

Bloomberg transphobia

As mayor, he vetoed legislation requiring New York City's largest contractors to provide domestic-partner benefits.

Michael Bloomberg not only has a history of anti-transgender comments, he once blocked domestic-partner benefits for employees of companies holding contracts with New York City.

This blot on Bloomberg's LGBTQ record is the subject of a Washington Blade article published Wednesday. Bloomberg, now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, will make his first appearance in a presidential debate Wednesday night.

In 2004, when Bloomberg was mayor of New York, the City Council passed the Equal Benefits Law, requiring companies making more than $100,000 a year through city contracts to provide equal benefits to LGBTQ employees, including partner benefits for those in same-sex relationships.

Bloomberg vetoed the legislation, then fought it in court when the council overrode his veto. He refused to enforce it after a trial court ruled against him. He won the case on appeal in 2006, with a judge agreeing that it conflicted with state law requiring contracts to go to the lowest responsible bidder and federal law governing benefits.

"At a time when same-sex couples are free to marry nationwide thanks to the 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, the idea of domestic partner benefits may seem quaint and insufficient, especially when they'd only be required for businesses doing $100,000 a year in contracts from New York City," the Blade notes. "But in 2004, when Massachusetts was the only state in the union to allow same-sex marriage and public sentiment was largely against gay nuptials, partner benefits were seen as a modest, but achievable, way to afford protections to LGBTQ families."

Carmen Vasquez, who was deputy director of the Empire State Pride Agenda at the time, told the Blade that Bloomberg's resistance to the measure "reflected poorly on his capacity to understand what the LGBT community was about."

Matt Foreman, then executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now National LGBTQ Task Force), was so upset about Bloomberg's 2004 veto that he resigned from New York City's Commission on Human Rights, to which the mayor had appointed him. But he rejoined it in 2005 after receiving a phone call from Bloomberg.

"He went over his objections to the ordinance ... and the steps he had taken to get more companies doing business with the city to offer domestic partner benefits," Foreman told the Blade. "That included requiring all companies to publicly disclose whether they provided DP benefits to their employees and persuading some of the city's largest health care insurance companies to start offering benefits at affordable rates. He was emphatic with me that he wanted gay couples to get equal benefits and thought the then-current situation was very unjust."

"I don't think the 2004 veto says anything about Mr. Bloomberg's views on LGBT equality," Foreman added. "His actions since then confirm he's a solid ally." Foreman, who later led the Empire State Pride Agenda and now works for the San Francisco-based Haas, Jr. Fund, has not made an endorsement in the presidential race.

Bloomberg went on to lobby for marriage equality in New York State, which the state passed in 2011. He also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which kept the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The court did so in 2013.

A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson defended his record on LGBTQ equality. "Mike has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ equality throughout his public life," the spokesperson told the Blade. "While Mike has been consistent in his belief that same-sex partners should have equal rights, in this case, he did not think the policy would advance this goal, because it would conflict with federal and state laws."

"He supported marriage equality in 2005, long before many elected officials in either party," the spokesperson continued. "As president, Mike will pass the Equality Act and will take executive action to ensure equal benefits and protections for LGBTQ+ federal government employees, as well as employees of firms that do business with the federal government."

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