Domestic Partnership Benefits for City Employees


hkily9n7On Feb. 9th your Asheville City Council will consider the question of whether to provide equal compensation for equal work. Domestic Partnership Benefits (DPB) for city employees with same-sex partners address a number of very important social and economic factors:

  1. Improve recruitment and retention of quality employees
  2. Provide equal compensation for equal work to our employees who are denied the option to marry
  3. Providing Domestic Partner Benefits to same-sex employees will also:

  4. Improve Asheville’s reputation as one friendly to our LGBT citizens
  5. Improve Asheville’s reputation as friendly to gay tourists
  6. Strengthen families through health, stability, and respect
  7. Compete with private sector employers
  8. Bolster Asheville’s reputation as a creative, accepting, diverse economic climate for entrepreneurs

I’ve moved forward with this initiative now because City staff will be presenting an analysis of our health and benefits packages in a worksession on March 9th. Including our LGBT employees is crucial. Seven other government entities in North Carolina have already passed DPB.  Three of them, including Mecklenburg County, passed same-sex only DPB. It’s perfectly legal, responsible, and just.

I’ll be offering a lot more on the subject between now and the Feb. 9th meeting. Stay tuned.

Follow me after the jump to learn more about how this simple step forward can benefit us all and how you can help make it a reality.

As far as the effectiveness of our City Government goes, being able to recruit and retain quality employees is central to success. 270 of the Fortune 500 companies are already offering DPB, and we’re competing for talent. According to a 2005 Hewitt Associates study, the number one reason for offering DPB was to attract and retain employees. In a time of salary freezes and job uncertainty, this is a way to let employees know we value them.

Our LGBT city employees are city employees. Their families are families of city employees. We ought to offer equal compensation for equal work.  This is an issue of basic fairness and respect. Since same-sex and transgendered couples are prohibited from marriage in North Carolina, they are also barred from accessing Asheville’s spousal benefits, including health, bereavement, and family medical leave. We have a responsibility to correct this inequity.

Offering DPB will strengthen families. The following groups have endorsed DPB as well as other important measures to create equality for LGBT Americans – American Medical Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Psychological Association.

The mere mention of DPB being on Asheville’s radar warranted a mention in The Advocate, a news magazine marketed to LGBT people worldwide. By making this policy a reality, Asheville’s reputation as a city that’s friendly to LGBT citizens and visitors will continue to grow. There is a $64.5 billion LGBT tourism market in the United States.

Demonstrating our city’s commitment to our LGBT citizens will add to its economic resilience and potential for economic growth. “In The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida demonstrates that a community’s success in attracting and retaining high-tech business is strongly correlated with its success in providing a safe, respectful, and congenial environment.” – link.


“this link between diversity and economic success was first proposed in a Brookings Institution paper (Florida and Gates 2002) exploring the relationship between technology and tolerance. The authors demonstrate a strong link between a thriving tech-oriented economy and diverse populations, including those with high concentrations of gay couples. The presence of a large gay and lesbian population serves as one signal of a high level of community diversity, tolerance, and acceptance for people who are different. This tolerance, the authors find, creates low barriers to entry for all people into the labor market and enables firms to draw from the widest possible mix of creative and innovative employees.”

If you agree that offering Domestic Partnership Benefits to City Employees is long overdue, then please help to make this policy a reality. You can find a handy fact sheet by clicking here. Share it with your friends. Spread the word on social media. Write an email to your City Council. Write a Letter to the Editor. Come voice your support at the February 9th meeting of City Council.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. We can win this one, but it’ll take all of us standing up for equality to make it happen.


  1. John says:

    Go get ’em, Gordon!

  2. Laura says:

    at what point on the council agenda is this scheduled for? I.E. What is the best time to tell my slacker friends to show up?

  3. Gordon Smith says:


    It’ll be near the end of the agenda during New Business. While it’s hard to guess for sure, I’d say no earlier than 7:30pm. Stay tuned to this site for any changes to that.

    Thanks for getting into it and getting involved!

  4. randallt says:

    I remember, way back in the spring, Gordon ran into me while I was working downtown, making tourists smile and laugh. He told me straight up, well straight might not be the best word, that moving towards equal rights for domestic partnership was going to be one of his priorities in moving Asheville to the top of the list of examples of enlightened cities.

    Now, after only a short time in office, he’s proving his mettle and his commitment to this issue. Makes me proud, gives me great hope.

  5. Milkweed says:

    YES. Thank you, Gordon.

  6. Alan says:

    Thank you Gordon. However you forgot to mention that the city also stands to save boatloads of money due to gays’ low (about 0.5 including adoption) average fertility rate. This means that any increase in the proportion of gay city workers saves a great deal in emloyee child benefits and in addition, any increase in the proportion of gay city residents saves a great deal in city childcare sevices including most community centers, swimming pools etc.
    One look at the gayest communities in america should show you they are prospering as a result of less need for child related services.

    You will even save me, way out in the county, big money in public school taxes.

  7. Alan says:

    I must admit that I didn’t expect Gordon to beat out Bothwell in placing this on the agenda as I thought it was a higher priority for Bothwell. Why weren’t you first Cecil? as you are the only one who has acknowledged the environmental importance of this kind of action.

  8. Chris says:

    Thank you. I’ll be following this and do whatever I can.

  9. Bruce Mulkey says:

    Way to go, Gordon!

  10. Michael Muller says:

    Be sure to watch Councilman Smith on WLOS tonight!

  11. shadmarsh says:


    Why does it matter who was first? Both Cecil and Gordon have consistently, and with clear language, supported this. This shouldn’t be about scoring points, it should be about doing what is fair and equitable.

  12. Gordon Smith says:

    I hope all of y’all will take 2 minutes to send an email or write an LTE. The sooner, the better!

  13. randallt says:

    Adam, your posts were hilarious.

  14. Michael Muller says:

    The final numbers next Tuesday are by no means guaranteed. The only thing that will guarantee success is an overwhelming show of public support for this initiative. Don’t sit on the sidelines, folks. Write a quick letter to Council and to the Citizen Times. Do it now.

    More importantly, show up next Tuesday. Stand up and speak; voice your support. You don’t have to be long-winded or clever or convincing…but enough good folks — Republicans & Democrats, Libertarians & Progressives, Gay and Straight — standing at the mic during public comment saying they agree with this will win the day.

    Here’s my take. The citizens of Asheville sent three new members to City Council last year who all unambiguously supported Domestic Partnership Benefits on the campaign trail. It’s one of the reasons you elected them. Hold them to their promises.

    Too often, Americans believe that their responsibility to the democratic process stops once they leave the voting booth. It doesn’t. The forces of bigotry and intolerance will be out in full force next Tuesday: let’s show the nation that Asheville stands on the side of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all of her citizens — and on the right side of history.

  15. Michael Muller says:

    By the way, it’s actually okay to be a conservative Republican and be fair-minded when it comes to gay people — notwithstanding people like Don Yelton, Chad Nesbitt, and Fred Phelps.

    Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, a conservative Republican — and a devout Mormon — supports extending Domestic Partnership benefits to same-sex and other nontraditional couples.

  16. Alan says:

    We have a choice to make and that is that some towns restrict domestic partner benefits to same sex domestic partners and some extend it to opposite sex domestic partners. I believe I am for the former, same sex only, because I don’t know the fertility rate of opposite sex domestic partners and it might not be low.
    Others might favor same sex only because opposite sex domestic partners are able to get married, those unable to get married are pretty much same sex.

    As for LTTE’s, I think we’re too late to get into the weeklies and I had my turn this month in the daily.

    Is Gordon’s current proposal same sex only?

    Also, it does matter which councillor is first as even coalition members are inevitably in competition for campeign dollars, volunteers and in many cases votes. Timing reflects priorities and the councillor who moves first can be reasonably assumed to place culturally progressive reproductive rights issues higher among their priorities. I endorsed Bothwell far more vigorously than Smith partly because I expected Bothwell, the only candidate to acknowledge overpopulation, to move first on DPBs. Now that looks like a mistake.

  17. shadmarsh says:

    Anyone else wonder if there is a sign above the entrance to Alans bedroom that reads Arbeit macht frei?

  18. Jenny Bowen says:

    Gordon –

    Are you still planning on having a requirement that couples live together for 6months or more?

    I’ll all for this measure, but what about non-LGBT couple who are domestic partners that choose not to marry for whatever reasons? If they live together for 6months or more will they qualify for the same partner benefits?

  19. Gordon Smith says:


    I’m going to propose same-sex domestic partner benefits. This addresses the prohibition on marriage for LGBT couples while avoiding the 8.8% increase in costs they saw in Austin.

    As to requirements – I’m going to leave those largely to staff. They’ll check out best practices in the other towns/cities/counties and apply something that fits our city employees.

  20. Jenny Bowen says:

    fair enough

  21. Alan says:

    Actually a 6 month requirement would still not constitute equal rights unless it applied to married employees also.
    The “8.8 increase in costs” did not include changes in childcare costs and is therefore inaccurate.

  22. Gordon Smith says:

    The 8.8% increase was in Austin’s municipal health care costs. It is entirely accurate.

  23. Alan says:

    Then the inaccuracy is in attributing all of the increase to domestic partner benefits, when some of it was due to inflation and other causes. Also the resulting reduction in other costs, like childcare benefits, was inaccurately not attributed to domestic partner benefits.

  24. Bavl says:

    Hats off to you Gordan!!! I’m glad to see this happening for the employess of Avl. It was dissappointing to see Terry our Mayor vote agaist DPB. That will definitley change some poll ratings and defintley mine going forward. Having always had Domestic Partnership with some of the larger companies, it’s way past time for AVL. I think what people don’t realize it’s not about religion, it chaps me to see a Rev. coming in on city benifits of all things. The City needs to provide a service, which it is not providing fairly to all employees. You may find by passing DPB, many more canidates on the doorsteps of the City of Avl. for employment. Or maybe a mayor candidate like yourself. 🙂 Great work!