S.F. to Finance Gender Reassignments

Barbara Dozetos, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network
Tuesday, May 1, 2001 / 10:24 PM

San Francisco has scored another first for GLBT rights, as its Board of Supervisors voted to pay for city employees' sex change procedures.

San Francisco is set to become the first city in the country to cover sex changes in its employee benefits package.

With a 9-2 vote, the city's Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a measure that will allow city employees to claim up to $50,000 toward the cost of therapies and surgeries needed for sex reassignment.

The vote was scheduled for April 23, but was delayed by Supervisor Mark Leno (pictured) in order to ensure he would have the nine votes necessary for his bill to pass. A city committee approved the measure earlier in April following a five-year battle within the city's health department.

Leno told the Associated Press that support for the move is widespread, with the only opposition coming from people out of state. "We have transgender people living and working among us," Leno told the AP. "They deserve the same dignity and respect as every other citizen. One way is to make sure the city provides equal benefits for equal work."

Supervisor Tony Hall, who voted against the added benefit, called it reverse discrimination and said he had heard from many constituents who agree with him. "This is not like heart failure," Hall told the AP. "This is an elective procedure."

But supporters pointed out that the measure would not cover cosmetic surgery and could only be used if a doctor declared it a medical necessity. The screening process will last up to six months and will include an extensive medical review.

"This is a matter of conscience," said Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano in the San Francisco Chronicle. "It is not a political decision; it is a moral decision."

The city estimates that 17 of its 37,000 current employees are transgendered, and that as many as 35 might make use of the new benefits in the first year. Implementation of the coverage changes, which include hearing aids and acupuncture, will increase each employee's monthly insurance premium by approximately $1.70, the bulk of which will be paid by the city.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown supports the measure and is expected to sign it quickly. The new benefits will take effect July 1.

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