The Association of Lesbians and Gays of Ottawa is throwing its support behind Sears Canada for its decision to extend family benefits to same-sex partners.

“People like myself who might not normally shop at Sears will alter their shopping habits,” said Anne Molgat of the Ottawa-based gay and lesbian lobby group.  “I support companies who support my community.”

Sears announced in a letter to its managers that it was taking the initiative to extend benefits immediately to same-sex partners “in light of recent human rights and Supreme Court hearings.”

But according to Gwen Landolt, president of REAL Women, “it can be stated emphatically that the matter is not settled in law and there is absolutely no legal requirement at present that Sears give same-sex benefits to its homosexual lovers.”

REAL Women is trying to publicize the groups which it says are deliberately mis-interpreting “either by accident or by design” the legal situation in the province regarding same-sex couples.

Landolt, a lawyer, says a 1992 Human Rights decision applied only to the Ontario government.  Now Sears, the Toronto Board of Education, Ontario Hydro and the City of Ottawa are granting the benefits.

Activists are especially pleased with the Sears decision because it is one of the first in the private sector to extend benefits.