Bloomberg Orders Equal City Pension Treatment

November 18, 2004 ( - Although its ultimate impact is uncertain, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered his city pension fund board appointees to treat married gay employees as they do workers in traditional marriages.

The order, based on a city Law Department ruling , effectively has no immediate impact and it is still unclear how many city workers might be covered under such a pension approach, according to the Associated Press. The mayor does not have a majority of appointees on any of the boards, which cover pension plans for police, teachers and other city employees.

“I am forwarding the opinion (of city lawyers) to my representatives on the boards of the City’s five pension systems and directing them to introduce resolutions to ensure that parties to these relations are treated in the same manner as parties to opposite-sex marriages,” Bloomberg said in a Web site statement . “This will enables us to extend benefits, such as in the case of accidental death, to spouses of City employees who are legally married, regardless of their sexual orientation. In addition, since a change in New York State law is required to grant pension benefits to domestic partners, I will support state legislation that achieves that worthy goal. All of our City employees deserve to be treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation, and I hope these measures will ensure that they are.”

Pending ultimate approval by the city’s five pension fund boards, same sex couples who are legally married or involved in a civil union with a city employee, would get pension benefits — including accidental death benefits. The approach would cover people in gay marriages and civil unions that have been recently sanctioned in Massachusetts, Vermont and several Canadian provinces, among other places.

New York state does not officially recognize gay marriage and state law prohibits pension benefits from being awarded to couples in city-sanctioned domestic partnerships. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has ruled that though same-sex marriages could not be legally performed in New York, the state must recognize those performed legally elsewhere.

The state does allow employees to make same-sex partners their pension beneficiaries. A decision by state Comptroller Alan Hevesi in October allowed married gay couples to receive automatic cost-of-living increases and accidental death benefits for survivors (See Empire State Couple Wins Equal State Benefits ).