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GLAA amends testimony on Kane confirmation to PSC
to reflect advances at Washington Gas
GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
February 27, 2007
The Honorable Mary Cheh
Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs
Council of the District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Dear Councilmember Cheh:
I am submitting this letter as an addition for the record of your February 21 committee hearing on the confirmation of Betty Ann Kane to the D.C. Public Service Commission.
At that time I testified that Washington Gas Light had not implemented an equitable domestic partners benefit program for its gay and lesbian employees. Since then, I have learned otherwise.
GLAA had written to Washington Gas last year urging them to inaugurate such a program. When we received their reply last month, it was unfortunately ambiguous on one critical point.
They declared that as of January 1 of this year, their corporate policy “will clearly state that we provide employees in state-recognized civil unions the same benefits as our married employees.”
This language concerned us, because no local jurisdiction recognizes civil unions. Taken literally, their new benefits program would be nothing more than a Potemkin village, since no one could qualify for it. We therefore asked how their policy would apply to those registered as domestic partners in the District of Columbia and suggested that they send us a copy of the actual policy. No answer was forthcoming from the company before last week.
Luckily, Mr. Steven Jumper of Washington Gas attended last week’s confirmation hearing, and told me afterwards that the company had indeed started a benefits policy covering domestic partners in the District of Columbia. When I told him that we would need documentation, he agreed to supply it promptly. He was as good as his word, and he sent us the required information the very next day.
To be sure, the Washington Gas policy is not perfect, chiefly because eligibility is restricted to same-sex partners residing in the District of Columbia. The District’s law specifically allows any couple to register as domestic partners regardless of where they live. We will therefore encourage Washington Gas to broaden their eligibility criteria to include gay and lesbian couples living in the suburbs who register as domestic partners with the D.C. government. We are also puzzled by the fact that only those enrolled in PPOs are eligible for Washington Gas’ domestic partner benefits. We will urge them to allow those enrolled in HMOs or other kinds of health insurance programs to participate as well.
Nevertheless, Washington Gas has indeed made a good-faith beginning, and we believe this is the kind of “win-win” situation I described in my testimony. We have cited Washington Gas’ good example in the latest edition of Agenda: 2007, the comprehensive issues platform we have sent to all candidates running in the May 1 special elections. Accordingly, GLAA will not object to any special legislative favors that Washington Gas may request.
We want to take this opportunity to thank you for your letter of February 23 to PEPCO, urging them to implement a domestic partners program. Unfortunately, they have dug in their heels in opposition to this reform, and we can only hope your influence will help them reconsider their stubbornness. We will be glad to co-operate with you and your Council colleagues as you fulfill your public pledge to be “pro-active” on this matter.
Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance
Cc: Councilmember Jim Graham
Councilmember Marion Barry
Councilmember Kwame Brown
Councilmember Tommy Wells
Betty Ann Kane