Senate Majority Extends Rights To LGBT Couples

June 30, 2010

Legislation grants bereavement leave to employees in same-sex relationships

The Senate Democratic Majority passed legislation (S6177A/Montgomery) that allows individuals involved in same-sex relationships to be granted funeral or bereavement leave from their place of employment.
The bill, spearheaded by Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), extends this privilege that was previously granted only to employees that are married, adding a section to the civil rights law that prohibits its employers from discriminating in the granting of funeral or bereavement leave to its employees who are in a “committed,” same-sex relationship.  A “committed” relationship is defined as a long-term relationship characterized by emotional and financial commitment and interdependence.  It also orders the granted leave to be extended on the same basis as if offered to married employees.
It passed 50-11; this legislation has also passed the Assembly.
“This bill recognizes the fact that love, loyalty and dedication  are the cornerstone of any committed relationship regardless of a person's sexual orientation. It does not  require that preferential treatment be given to employees in same-sex relationships. It merely provides that bereavement leave be granted to individuals involved in same-sex relationships on the same basis as those granted to employees who are married,” said Senator Montgomery, who is also a sponsor of the marriage equality bill authored by Senator Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan).
For many years, individuals in same-sex relationships who are barred from civil marriage were often not granted bereavement leave to attend the funeral of their partner or partner’s family.  This fails to recognize the significance that any committed relationship has, and the value that committed relationships contribute to our communities.
Senate Democratic Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said, “Same-sex individuals have been barred from civil marriage, and for far too long those couples have been refused the opportunity to have bereavement leave like their married counterparts.  I commend this legislation’s compassionate efforts to allow same-sex couples the chance to console each other in times of mourning.”
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D/WF-35th District) said, “I was devastated when my husband died in 2007.  Somehow I can't believe that a loss of that magnitude feels any less painful based on sexual orientation.  I support this legislation because the grieving process should be respected for everyone.”
Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) said, “Many couples throughout the state are involved in committed relationships of financial and emotional interdependence.  It is more than appropriate for those couples to be able to give emotional support to their partner in times of grief and heartache.  A number of more open-minded companies with domestic partnership policies now allow bereavement leave for same-sex couples, and I applaud this legislation that opens up this benefit to all same-sex couples.”
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