Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias
has extended family-leave benefits to gay employees in domestic
partnerships, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Giannoulias' executive order, signed on
Sunday, will allow gay and lesbian treasurer office employees to take
up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child
or to care for a sick partner or relative. Previously, only married
employees were eligible for the benefits.
The 34-year-old Giannoulias said the
benefits were not a “bonus or perk” but “the same basic rights
other employees have come to expect.”
He also said he signed the order
because it was the right thing to do, and added: “It's not about
Opponents, however, are certain to make
political hay over the new benefits, which come at the tail-end of a
four-year term as Giannoulias battles Republican Mark Kirk for the
Senate seat once held by President Barrack Obama. Gay politics have
already heated the contest.
Earlier in the month, Kirk denied a
claim by prominent outing
blogger Mike Rogers that he's gay. Rogers said he outed Kirk
after the Illinois representative voted against attaching a “Don't
Tell, Don't Tell” repeal amendment to the defense budget bill. The
amendment would reverse the 1993 law that forbids gay troops from
serving openly. During the Republican primary, Kirk faced similar
allegations by his GOP primary opponent, Andy Martin. Martin accused
Kirk of being gay and in the pocket of gay rights groups.
But the Human Rights Campaign (HRC),
the nation's largest gay rights advocate, appears to disagree. The
group has endorsed the candidacy of Giannoulias, a Democrat who
supports gay marriage.
When asked why bloggers continue to out
him as gay, Kirk told Chicago CW affiliate WGN: “Because I guess I
got divorced, but I hope to remarry one day.”
“To a woman?” the reported asked.
“Absolutely,” Kirk replied.
Giannoulias' office, which includes
about 180 employees, is the first state agency to extend the benefit.