Council approves same sex employee benefits

By Danielle Gaines

The Champaign City Council voted 9 to zero, passing a resolution approving the extension of employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners. This act gives the same benefits to domestic partners of employees as those received by legally married employees.

Kimberlie Kranich, a Champaign resident and co-founder of the 85% Coalition addressed the Council before the vote. She urged council members to imagine not being able to take time off work for the death of their partner. She said this is something that same sex domestic partners deal with on a regular basis.

“I’m glad it was a unanimous vote, this is definitely a small step in the right direction,” Kranich said.

The 85% Coalition is a grassroots campaign to secure equal rights for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community in the state of Illinois.

Kranich also urged council members to propose an amendment that would include all domestic partners.

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“They claim that this will cost too much money, but it will not,” she said.

Parkland College recently passed such a policy for its employees. Kranich said that the University does not offer such a program, but instead has an insurance reimbursement plan. Under this type of plan, an employee is not able to add their same sex domestic partner to the plan, but has to submit claims to receive reimbursement. This is especially difficult for partners who have a medical history that bars them from getting their own insurance Kranich said.

Kranich said that the city might still need to amend the ordinance to include all partners to avoid a conflict with its human rights ordinance. In that ordinance, a domestic partner is not defined solely in terms of sexual orientation. This means that heterosexual partners must be included in the new benefit plan.

“What Ms. Kranich has said tonight helps us better understand the struggles that are faced by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community,” council member Giraldo Rosales said. “This is a monumental day for that community in Champaign.”

“Maybe one day the city will require all employers to offer all employees the same benefits,” Kranich said.

In other news, the Council also unanimously approved the creation of a University District Advisory Board.

The advisory board will be comprised of nine voting members and one non-voting member. Two business owners within the University District, three real property owners – someone who owns land – in the University District, two residents of the City of Champaign, one University student nominated by the student body president, and one University official nominated by the Chancellor, will serve as the voting members. An Urbana resident will serve as the non-voting member on the board.

The term of office will be three years for each member, with the exception of the student member, who will serve for one year.

The University District Advisory Board will serve as the primary advisory board to the city council on University District issues. The advisory board replaces Campustown 2000, which previously advised the council.

Also attending the meeting was Elizabeth Sesso, a Lincolnshire, Ill., resident. Sesso attended the meeting to speak on the recent death of freshman Sarah Channick.

Sesso is the mother of a University student and urged the council to seek out ways to improve pedestrian safety in the University District.

“We care about all of the University students and are doing what we can to keep them safe,” said council member Tom Bruno.