(Cincinnati) -- As of January 1st, 2015, Metro will extend health and dental benefits to the unmarried and same sex partners of its employees.

The announcement comes during Cincinnati Pride Week, and Councilman Chris Seelbach says it shows how far along the City has come. He points out ten years ago, there was a fight to repeal Article XII, which prohibited including sexual orientation in any non-discrimination ordinance.  The measure gave the City what many considered a bad reputation.

Seelbach says today, Cincinnati is considered among the most gay-friendly in the nation.  He says next week, Council will likely approve starting a domestic partner registry, which would open the door to more companies offering benefits to unmarried and same sex couples.  That, he says, will make the local economy stronger, and more attractive to companies. 

The Sorta board's decision to extend benefits was welcomed by the gay rights group Equality Ohio.  Executive Director John Bogus says 80% of the major employers in Ohio offer domestic partner benefits and employment protections.

Sorta board chair Jason Dunn says Metro joins P&G, Fifth-Third Bank, Kroger, UC and GE Aviation in offering health and dental benefits.  Mayor John Cranley says the City is on that list too.