- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California has became the first state to require businesses with large state contracts to offer domestic partners the same benefits that spouses enjoy, although the law will not take effect until 2007.

Outgoing Gov. Gray Davis signed the bill enacting the measure, which had been a key goal of homosexual rights groups.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, called the move “incredibly significant.”

“There are a lot of businesses that want state contracts, and in order to be eligible, companies will now have to give equal benefits,” Mr. Kors said.

In 1996, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction in the country to adopt such a requirement, prompting numerous companies to offer benefits to domestic partners. Other cities have since followed suit, and California is the first state to approve such a law.

The measure narrowly cleared the Legislature earlier this year, passing the Assembly with the minimum number of votes needed.

At the time, Democrats described the measure as a victory for fairness and civil rights, while Republican opponents said it would trample the rights of employers who objected to homosexual relationships.

Mr. Davis signed the measure Sunday as he considered dozens of bills sent to him by the Legislature. He faced a midnight deadline to act on the measures.

The governor, who was recalled by voters Oct. 7 but will remain in office until the results become official, had tried to appeal to California’s large homosexual community earlier this year in an attempt to increase public support and keep his job.

Mr. Davis already has approved a bill giving domestic partners most of the rights and responsibilities of married couples.

The bill regarding state contracts was the other major homosexual rights bill passed by the Legislature this year, and homosexual rights groups had urged Mr. Davis to sign it even though he has been recalled. Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had asked Mr. Davis to sign no more bills before leaving office, but has acknowledged Mr. Davis’ right to do so.

The new law will apply to contracts worth $100,000 or more, and may be waived in emergencies and cases where there is only one bidder.

In 1999, California became the first state in the nation to allow homosexual couples to register as domestic partners.

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