A bill before the Philadelphia City Council could extend the privileges of life partners and improve accommodations for transgendered individuals.
Some of the bill’s provisions include tax credits for employers that extend health coverage to transgendered individuals or life partners of employees, redefining the term “family” in the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code to include life partners and a provision for citizens to change their name or gender on city documents.
The bill — which was introduced on March 21 by Councilmember James Kenney and 1986 College graduate and Councilmember W. Wilson Goode — will receive a preliminary committee vote on Thursday. An earlier form of the bill was introduced in November, but was not voted on in committee.
According to Legislative Assistant to Councilman Kenney and Fels Institute of Government first-year graduate student Christopher Goy, the 6 percent tax credit for businesses that did not previously provide health care to transgendered employees or life partners is a key aspect of this bill and would be the first credit of its kind in America.
However, Penn will not be eligible for this credit because it already provides coverage for both transgendered individuals and life partners of employees, Goy said.
“This [bill] would create an immediate incentive for businesses to realize that adding this health coverage alongside the health coverage they already offer for spouses not only makes them more competitive but [will not] cost any more than plans they are [already] offering,” Goy said.
He added that another major part of this legislation will be an amendment to be introduced on Thursday that will put an “end to the discrimination of transgendered health care for all city employees.”
Most major health care policies have an automatic exclusion against health coverage specific to the needs of transgendered individuals, Goy said. However, this legislation would call for the repeal of that within one calendar year.
The bill has already garnered support from the Mazzoni Center — a Philadelphia health care provider that specifically targets the needs of the LGBT community.
Legal Director of the Mazzoni Center David Rosenblum praised the bill in an email specifically for its efforts “to encourage employers to extend health coverage to same-sex couples through tax incentives” and to address health coverage for transgender city employees.”
Rosenblum added that he has been working with Councilmember Kenney’s office on formulating the bill to “expand on existing protections for the LGBT community.”
“We had a specific focus on the transgender community because in the rapid advancement of LGBT rights that is taking place, the community that is most often forgotten is the transgendered community,” Goy said.
To that end, the bill includes provisions for the construction of gender-neutral bathrooms in city facilities and the guarantee of a person’s right to dress consistently with his or her gender identity.
However, Law School professor Kermit Roosevelt thinks there might be “substantial risk” that the Pennsylvania courts might strike down the bill.
“If some local business complained that it did not want to allow its employees to dress as the gender they claimed to be rather than their biological gender, that might be an appealing claim in Harrisburg,” he said in an email.
However, Goy feels that there is not only a “very strong” chance that the bill will pass, but also that it will not be overturned.
“We have been working with the mayor’s administration, including the law department, so that everything [in the bill] is on strong legal standing,” Goy said.
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