St. Petersburg will extend same-sex benefits to its 2,600 city employees, according to a statement from Mayor Bill Foster on Thursday. Foster also is credited with his support of a domestic registry ordinance—both are positions that may seem unlikely from a man with openly conservative religious beliefs.
Yet, equality was the motivation Foster used to make these decisions, he said. “It’s the right thing to do. All of our employees should have it.”
Foster maintains that this decision had nothing to do with religion. “My religious beliefs and my faith in God and my belief in the Bible, that’s my moral compass,” Foster said. “But as mayor of the city sworn to uphold the constitution and the laws, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the city.”
In fact, same-sex benefits are not new to the city. In 2010 the St. Petersburg Police Department officers had it, and a year later fire department administrators had it. Now, it’s time for the rest of the city to have it.
Why did it take so long? Foster admits that the benefit was being used as a bargaining chip within contract negotiations between two unions and the city.
On Thursday, Foster said that he agreed last week to offer the benefit to the city’s 630 non-union employees, and did not see a benefit in stalling the same-sex benefits for union employees, because it was something he intended to offer them all along.
The city needs to treat all employees the same, said Foster. While contract negotiations have hit an impasse with union employees, he said that all city employees deserve to have the same benefits.
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