Domestic Partnership and Seattle's Family Leave Ordinance

On June 26, 1989, the City Council's Finance and Personnel Committee (chaired by Virginia Galle) held a public hearing for the public to voice their opinions related to the Family Leave Ordinance (Ordinance 114648). The law proposed changes to City employees' family leave policies and defined "domestic partnership," in order to be in compliance with Seattle's Fair Employment Practices Ordinance (FEPO). The legislation also enlarged the definition of "family" so that City employees could take sick leave to care for their domestic partners as well as their children and parents, and allowed employees to take bereavement leave.

Representatives from many community groups including Radical Women, the Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL), Freedom Socialist Party, and Coalition of Labor Union Women provided public comment. In an 8-1 vote, the City Council passed the Family Leave Ordinance on August 14, 1989.

Speakers

Local activist Linda Averill, representing Seattle Radical Women, spoke in favor of the legislation. In her public comment, Averill discussed the importance of recognizing domestic partners and allowing them to qualify for family leave, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community and the impact of previous discrimination for these relationships. (listen to audio)

Lorem I. Nelson, a minister and member of Local 17, spoke as a citizen and provided an opposing view. Nelson's concern regarding the ordinance centered around his religious beliefs which did not sanction same-sex marriage. (listen to audio)

Doreen McGrath, representing Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL), advocated for the legislation. McGrath argued that extending benefits to domestic partners is a basic civil rights issue. (listen to audio)

The audio recording of the full hearing for Event 13225 is available online to stream and download. To learn more about the history of domestic partnerships in the City of Seattle, please see SMA's "Domestic Partnerships and Marriage Equality in Seattle" online exhibit.