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Originally published April 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 24, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Hostile Bellevue

Bellevue ought not cast a shadow on what has been a sunny renaissance by appearing to be hostile to gay city employees.

Bellevue ought not cast a shadow on what has been a sunny renaissance by appearing to be hostile to gay city employees.

The city has been slow to extend family employment benefits to gay couples, leading to a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit by three employees alleging discrimination. If the lawsuit is successful, it could force public employers statewide to extend the same employment benefits to partners of gay workers as provided to heterosexual families.

This page sides with the employees. The right to care and provide for loved ones is the cornerstone of family, whether they are gay or heterosexual. Extending health care, bereavement and family leave to domestic partners pays off with a work force high in morale and productivity and low in turnover.

Bellevue is surrounded by good role models that offer domestic-partner benefits to employees. They include Washington state, King County and Seattle.

Thousands of private employers also recognize the positive impact on morale and retention by offering domestic-partner benefits.

Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger personally supports domestic-partner benefits but is reluctant to commit without knowing the costs. Another Bellevue official points to the city's no-new-benefits policy.

But less-wealthy cities such as Burien, Sammamish, Tumwater and Pullman offer domestic-partner benefits. True, they are smaller, but as a matter of principle they stand tall.

City officials have spoken convincingly on behalf of diversity in the past. But this lawsuit doesn't place Bellevue in a good light.

One of the plaintiffs is a 10-year employee promoted and commended in the past but who was forced to work a day without pay after he took one day off to attend the funeral of his partner's father. It is a shameful mark on the manager who didn't think to make an allowance for a valued employee in distress.

Bellevue has burnished its landscape with shimmering skyscrapers and flourishing businesses. It ought to act like the modern city it has become and extend domestic-partner benefits to gay employees.

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