06/14/2010 12:27 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Treasurer's Office Expands Benefits For Same-Sex Partners‎

This weekend, Illinois State Treasurer and Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias signed an executive order giving gay and lesbian employees of the Illinois Treasurer's office with domestic partners the same benefits as married employees.

Giannoulias, who picked up an endorsement late last month from the Human Rights Campaign, said the move was not about politics--but about fairness.

"Hard working men and women devoted to their families should not have to choose between their family and keeping their job," Giannoulias said Sunday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "The bottom line is that we should not deny same sex domestic couples the same rights that are available to married couples."

The Sun-Times reports:

They'll get the same family and medical leave benefits, be able to take time off to have or adopt children and take bereavement time on par with married workers. That is in addition to health care benefits that same-sex partners already received.

The order makes the office the first constitutional Illinois state office or state agency to adopt such a policy and one of only nine states and the District of Columbia to implement leave-related benefits for domestic partners, Giannoulias said. He hopes other state offices will take the same action.

"These aren't added bonuses or employee perks," Giannoulias said, according to "These are the same basic rights other employees have long come to expect."

Cleo Downing, a marketing representative for the Treasurer's Office, married her wife in Canada, and the couple has been together for ten years. She told the Sun-Times that when her her mother-in-law passed away in Newark eight months ago, she flew to the funeral, but had to return home the next day.

"I left my wife in Newark because I had to get back to work," she told the paper. "I didn't have a lot of off time."

Though the order could be reversed by the next state treasurer, Democratic Treasurer's Office nominee Robin Kelly said she supported it.

"This particularly signing will affect me directly and my household," Downing told the Sun-Times, adding it represents "what true equality is."