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Same-Sex Partner Benefits Ordinance Signed

The City of Easton is the fifth municipality in Pennsylvania to provide equal benefits to gay city employees in a committed relationship.

Joined by city council members Mike Fleck, Sandra Vulcano and Ken Brown, Easton Mayor Sal Panto signed an ordinance Monday that will grant equal benefits to .

Speaking at a news conference in Centre Square, Panto noted the historic signing took place appropriately at a historic place, where the Declaration of Independence was read publicly on July 8, 1776.

“No one ever thought a city of our size would want or need to enact this sort of legislation,” Panto said. “I hope this sends a clear message to our senators and representatives that it should be passed at a state level.”

The issue is not just about sexuality, Panto said, it's about justice and equality.

“We've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go,” he said.

Fleck, who sponsored the ordinance said he was pleased with it's reception among city council members and the public.

“They didn't need a lot of convincing,” Fleck said. He added that he is proud Easton is one of five Pennsylvania cities to support equal benefits and noted too that it is the smallest to do so.

“It's a wonderful thing, and I'm happy to be a part of it,” said Vulcano. “I'm very happy I sit with different age groups and we had no problem knowing this was the right thing to do.”

“This is a big, significant thing,” said Pennsylvania Diversity Network Executive Director Liz Bradbury. “It's landmark legislation...and it's a historic place. I like that a lot.”

Calling Easton one of “five spots of light” in a state that does not yet recognize same-sex partnerships, she said the passage of the new law “signals that Easton is a progressive city committed to fairness and equality for its gay and lesbian employees and their families.”

“In Easton, no one has spoken against it,” she added.

The law is set to go into effect January 1, and has an automatic sunset provision should same-sex unions become recognized at the state level.

City officials have previously stated that the law is expected to cost the city little to no extra money.

“It's not something that costs more money,” Bradbury said. “There's a considerable federal tax burden...so no one does this unless they must have these benefits.”

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