Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich this week issued an executive order extending domestic partnership benefits to all state employees under the authority of the governor’s office.

Illinois is America’s 13th state, and the third largest to adopt domestic partnership benefits for a major segment of its state employee population.

The 12 other states are California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia also offers domestic partner benefits to its employees.

In 2005, Illinois became the 15th state to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the fifth to also protect transgender people from discrimination.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released the following statement regarding the executive order:

“We salute Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for extending essential benefits to the domestic partners of all state employees under the authority of the governor’s office. The families of lesbian and gay employees need and deserve the same benefits as all others, including access to affordable health insurance and to be able to take care of family members in emergency situations. This is what the governor’s action today is all about – basic fairness.

“This is a particularly powerful rebuke to those forces seeking to place an anti-marriage advisory initiative on the November ballot. We also congratulate Illinois’ outstanding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights and advocacy organization, Equality Illinois, and its leader, Rick Garcia, for being the driving forces in yet another signal achievement on the road to complete equality. It is now time for similar benefits to be extended to state employees who are under the authority of the state’s other constitutional officers and of the state university system.”

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up.

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